Holiday Entertaining | Ambrosia Cocktail

As children, we snuck ourselves into position to pluck our favorites out of Grandmother’s ambrosia, whether it be the cherries, the marshmallows, the oranges—whatever we fancied. I’m almost certain she doubled the cherries in her toe-headed imp of a granddaughter’s serving. We take Grandmother’s ambrosia to the adult table this season with a refreshing, fragrant celebration of the new year with the big kids.

Serves 1

In a cocktail shaker, combine

1 tablespoon Malibu coconut rum (or other coconut liqueur)
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon Orange flower water (available where liqueurs are sold or in Middle Eastern markets)
1 teaspoon Grenadine

Champagne, Cava, or Prosecco

Shake first 5 ingredients with ice, and strain into a champagne flute. Top with chilled Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, or sparkling wine of your choice.

Optional garnish: Thread marshmallow, cherry (fresh or maraschino), and pineapple sections on bamboo skewer and serve as a stirrer. The garnish shown is candied ginger, perfect for settling your holiday-indulged tummy, if you've treated yourself as robustly as I have this season!

This week on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for quick tips for easy holiday entertaining with recipes like this easy, festive Ambrosia Cocktail, as well as Pesto Broiled OystersBalsamic Red Onion ConfitSweet & Savory Spiced Nuts, and Citrus-Spiced OlivesAlso, consider centering your snacks around Knockout Cheese & Charcuterie board, and learn how to build one here, just in time to ring in the new year in style!

Holiday Entertaining | Pesto Broiled Oysters

When time is short, rely on the professionals! The fanciest offering on the buffet is the simplest to pull together with the help of a trusted fishmonger and a prepared pesto from the grocery refrigerated section. No one will be the wiser.

Large baking sheet with high lip, bottom covered with a layer of coarse or rock salt
Fresh oysters on the half-shell, shucked at the market
Prepared pesto
Grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh lemon zest (optional)

Preheat broiler.

Drain oyster liquid (reserve for another use), and pat tops slightly dry. Nestle into salt-lined baking sheet.

Spoon prepared pesto atop, blanketing each oyster in its shell.

Top each with a healthy scatter of grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh lemon zest, if using.
Broil under heating element on the top oven rack until topping begins to bubble and brown. Remove from heat and serve warm.  

Interested in making your own pesto? It's EASY. Toss a few handfuls of fresh basil,(I also add about a half handful of fresh mint to mine), a handful of pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds, or whatever), about a quarter cup Parmesan cheese, grated, into a food processor. With the motor running, slowly drizzle a good-quality olive oil until the pesto is slightly thinner than a paste. Add salt to taste. I also add a tiny bit of lemon juice to keep the flavors bright. It's optional.

Also, you can make something like a pesto (pesto, for us purists, is made with only the ingredients above, but we've co-opted the name to stand for anything, almost, that's whirled together with some nuts. You'll learn more about that here) by substituting, in part or wholly, healthy greens for the fresh herbs. Try this Farmers Market Favorite Collard Greens Pesto, and enjoy the added benefit of a healthy, wealthy new Year, according to custom
This week on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for quick tips for easy holiday entertaining with recipes like these Pesto Broiled Oysters, As well as Balsamic Red Onion Confit, Sweet & Savory Spiced NutsCitrus-Spiced Olives, and a sparkling Ambrosia Cocktail you'll find posted on New Year's Eve, Also, consider centering your snacks around Knockout Cheese & Charcuterie board, and learn how to build one here, just in time to ring in the new year in style!

Holiday Entertaining | Balsamic Onion Confit

Festive and fragrant, this Balsamic Red Onion Confit, a perfect partner for bold cheeses and charcuterie, stands apart from standard caramelized onions with the addition of red wine, herbs, and balsamic vinegar. About a half hour undertaking, this confit has the added benefit of pairing well with meats, for a simple, impressive entree dress-up, and also creates a heavenly homemade fragrance that will make you look like you slaved the day away in the kitchen, while only you and I will know you took a long bath and a two-hour nap, instead. (wink, wink)

Yield: Approximately 2 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 red onions, peeled and sliced into uniform rings, ¼ thick
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and Freshly-Ground Black Pepper, to taste

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions, separating into ringlets or half moons. Stir to coat onions with butter, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions become wilted, darkened, and release their juices--about 30 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients to onions. Combine well, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced—about 15-20 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This week on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for quick tips for easy holiday entertaining with recipes like these quick Balsamic Onion Confit, as well as Sweet & Savory Spiced Nuts, Citrus-Spiced Olives, Pesto-Topped Broiled Oysters (found later today on the blog) and a sparkling Ambrosia Cocktail, Also, consider centering your snacks around Knockout Cheese & Charcuterie board, and learn how to build one here, just in time to ring in the new year in style!

Holiday Entertaining | Citrus Spiced Olives

Orange and coriander mingle with a peppery kick to dress up plain olives in their prettiest party finery.

Yields 3 cups
  • 3 cups green or black olives of choice, pitted and drained
  • Juice and zest of one small orange
  • 2 teaspoons (or to taste) whole coriander seed, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover, chill for 30 minutes or longer.
If you and your guests are olive lovers, try a few combinations from the NFMF archives:

And a few more Happy Hour nibbles from waaaay back.... 

This week on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for quick tips for easy holiday entertaining with recipes like these simple but tasty Citrus Spiced Olives, as well as Sweet & Savory Spiced Nuts, Balsamic Onion Confit, Pesto-Topped Broiled Oysters and a sparkling Ambrosia Cocktail, Also, consider centering your snacks around a Knockout Cheese & Charcuterie board, and learn how to build one here, just in time to ring in the new year in style. 

Holiday Entertaining | Sweet & Savory Spiced Nuts

If you're like me, you make things so hard sometimes! Like I think the more complicated and time-consuming a project, the more spectacular the results. That's why folks like me often don't entertain. We make a huge project of it so massive that we never want to do THAT again. I'm learning how to scale it back. 

The most important element of a party, no matter the occasion, is the people who gather. The food and drink are secondary. Of course that doesn't mean we have to be ascetics! There's plenty of ways to indulge our appetite more manageably  This last week of the year, we're determined to bring our favorite people together, without losing our minds in the process and these types of delicious snacks, as well as some reliable resources, are our plan of attack. 

Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts

A crowd-pleasing combination of favorite nuts enrobed in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy glaze with an Asian flare.

Yields 3 cups

2 egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese Five-Spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans
1 cup cashews
1 cup Marcona almonds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites until thin and frothy. 

Whisk in granulated brown sugar, Chinese Five-Spice powder, and salt.

Fold in pecans, cashews, and Marcona almonds, coating well.

Remove with a slotted spoon to an ungreased baking sheet.

Toast nuts on the middle rack of oven for 10 minutes. Remove, toss and stir nuts, and return to oven for 10 more minutes. Toss and stir once more, and return to oven, watching closely, until nuts are toasted, but not scorched.

Note: Nuts will only begin to become crisp as they are cooling. Color and fragrance are better indicators of toasting.

Remove from oven, separate clumps, allow to cool in pan set over a rack, preferably, or the stove top burner.

This week on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for quick tips for easy holiday entertaining with recipes like these simple but tasty Sweet & Savory Spiced Nuts, as well as Citrus-Spiced Olives, Balsamic Onion Confit, Pesto-Topped Broiled Oysters and a sparkling Ambrosia Cocktail, Also, consider centering your snacks around a Knockout Cheese & Charcuterie board, and learn how to build one here, just in time to ring in the new year in style. 

Holiday Entertaining | Building a Knockout Cheese and Charcuterie Board

Think you're too busy to throw together a sparkling holiday happy hour at home this season? Think again.! A noteworthy soiree is well within reach when you call in a team of reliable resources.

With a few pantry staples, and a quick stop by the wine and cheese shop, you will be entertaining in high style in no time at all.. 

Let's begin by building an impressive cheese and charcuterie board as the centerpiece of your menu of sparkling snacks. 

You'll need:

Serving Platters:  A large platter, a large cutting board made of wood or bamboo, a large piece of slate, or even a slab of granite or marble.

Utensils:  allow each cheese its own appropriate knife , spoons for condiments, spreaders for spreadables, small tongs for meats and fruits.

Cheeses:  allow approximately 1-2 ounces of cheese per person, when serving with other small bites. If your cheese and charcuterie board will be the solo offering, 2-3 ounces per person should suffice. 

Select three cheeses for a crowd of 10 or less, 4-5 cheeses for larger parties. 

A good starting point is to have one firm cheese (say an English Cheddar), one creamy soft cheese (Brie, Camembert, Chevre), and one strong cheese (Blue, Roquefort, Gorgonzola). Add a hard aged cheese such as pecorino, and a festive cheese with peppers, soaked in port, or with the addition of spices or truffles for larger gatherings. 

Choose your favorites, or go with a theme— perhaps all cheeses from one country, or all cheeses of the same milk. If it sounds daunting, ask a trusted cheese monger for help; let them know your occasion, tastes and budget, and they can help you shine.

Meats:  Cured meats and charcuterie can be found packaged, or from butcher shops, and might include 3 to 5, depending upon the size of your crowd, of these popular choices:

Cured sausages: Spanish-style chorizo, sopressata, salame, pepperoni
Whole-muscle selections: Bresaola, loma, proscuitto, Speck or Iberico ham, guanciale
Spreads: Pate, rillette, liverwurst, chopped liver, confit, terrine

Breads:  Choose toasted bread rounds, crackers, grissini (breadsticks), cocktail rye bread, or fresh warm baguettes to tear into.

Nuts:  Choose your favorites, plain, or dressed up a bit. Marcona almonds are popular and easy to eat. Walnuts and pecans go well with cheese. Toasted or raw cashews or hazelnuts have a rich underlying sweet note. Seasoned nuts are available on grocery shelves and specialty shops, and you can also do it yourself! Try your hand at these simple Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts.

Savories:  Pickled vegetables, cornichon, caper berries, pickled peppers, gherkins, and assorted olives. You can find many of these on grocery shelves, olive bars, and bulk bins, but for the expense of just a little time, you can make simple, ordinary olives, one-of-a-kind and extraordinary, like these Citrus Spiced Olives,

Sweets:  Jam, jelly, fruit pastes, fresh or dried fruit, honey and/or honeycomb. Figs, sliced apples or pears, apricots, grapes, berries—all go nicely. You might even be inspired to add a little sweet and savory combination with the outrageously flavorful stove top Balsamic Onion Confit, featured later this week on Notes from Maggie's Farm..

If you're in the Austin area, or even plan to be, give a gander to my #ATXBESTBITES guide to My Favorite Austin Specialty Food & Wine Shops. These are all spots where you'll find knowledgeable and friendly staff, and the best selections available for food, cheese, wine, charcuterie, seafood, and more. 

This week on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for quick tips for easy holiday entertaining and recipes like these, as well as Pesto-Topped Broiled Oysters and a sparkling Ambrosia Cocktail, just in time to ring in the new year in style. 

Best Bet for LAST MINUTE gifts in Austin
Armadillo Christmas Bazaar

You're reading this because:

1. Someone has a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife you knew nothing about until today and they are showing up at the holiday celebration in 4 hours.

2. Your boss got you a gift. You did not get your boss a gift.

3. Your boyfriend got you a gift. You did not get your boyfriend a gift.

4. What's the big deal, you ask? You always shop on Christmas Eve!

5. It's 80 degrees in the metroplex. WTH? Christmas shopping??

6. You got paid today.

7. You're an adrenaline junkie. You thrive on this last minute stuff, you nut.

8. You bought every gift for everyone plus a few for unexpected surprises and you completed that task in July. You came here to make fun of the rest of us.

I'm not judging. Okay, number 8, I'm sorta judging you but otherwise, I'm with you people! I've been every one of those! And for the last 18 years, give or take a holiday or 2, I've been rescued, with the added benefit of liquor and live music, by the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.

The Bazaar, now in its 40th year, holds a special place in my heart. Upon my first Christmas in Austin, when I was a little homesick for the place and people I'd left behind, a new friend introduced me to the wonder of the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, then held at the Austin Music Hall where I would also see Pantera (because I would do ANYTHING to get out of the house), Ratdog, Lenny Kravitz, and more just that year. But I digress.

The Bazaar! For only a few bucks and a little patience with a crowd, you could listen to LIVE MUSIC, SHOP, SNACK and IMBIBE, all in one safe, festive place. It was a darn Christmas miracle, I tell you! The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar was a bright spot in my first Christmas in Austin, and it saved my holiday spirit, the same as it's gone and done this year. Thank you, Armadillo.

This year, I had the 23rd circled weeks ahead, for 2 sets by South Austin-based Uncle Lucius. They were fantastic-- set the perfect mood for a truly Austin-like Christmas. With elements of rock, folk, blues, and country, and 4 massively talented members, Uncle Lucius' strongest suit is writing lyrics that touch the common experience of all. Another example of sitting in an intimate set in Austin, listening to musicians you know might have/will be playing to crowds 50 times that size. They just wrapped up a residency at the Continental Club, and I highly recommend searching them out for a live show. Today you'll hear local favorites Albert and Gage at 11, (Ernie)Durawa at 3, and Bill Kirchen at 7pm. Not too shabby, huh?

December 15 – 24 • New Hours! 10am – 10pm  daily • Palmer Events Center

(Austin, TX) — Hot music, fine art and cold beer have made the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar the place where Austin shops in the giving season. The show is one of Austin’s longest running art and music festivals with a vibrant community-driven vibe. Visitors can explore an amazing array of handmade items from more than 160 artists while enjoying live local music and sips from a full bar. It all adds up to a fun authentic Austin experience.
The 10-day shopping destination and annual tradition for Austinites, celebrates 40 seasons of music and fine art December 15-24, from 10am to 10pm daily at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704.
The Armadillo makes holiday shopping fun in a comfortable, upbeat environment with a dazzling selection of one of a kind, hard to find, fine art and artisan crafts; from collectible pieces to modestly priced stocking stuffers, from stylishly smart to joyfully weird. Over 160 locally and nationally acclaimed artists exhibit their best works, including nearly two-dozen carefully curated newcomers this year. The Armadillo offers art for your home, perfect gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list in every price range, and anything you can imagine that will fit underneath your Christmas tree. A photo gallery of their work is available at
At least three bands per day perform on the Armadillo stage, with a star-studded music lineup that reads like a who’s who of Texas music. The 31 performances range from new and emerging stars to local legends, as well as Grammy winners. Armadillo’s intimate stage allows you to experience big Texas musicians in a cozy holiday setting. This year features new musicians such as John Fullbright and Gina Chavez as well as returning local icons Ray Wylie Hubbard, Asleep at the Wheel and Ruthie Foster.
Armadillo producers, Bruce Willenzik, Annie Harding and Anne Johnson are thrilled about the 40th season and look forward to honoring artists, musicians, friends and iconic independent local businesses that made significant contributions toward building Austin’s attractive cultural identity. Willenzik says: “We are grateful we’ve had the opportunity and support to go from our beginnings as a small special event at the the Armadillo World Headquarters to have grown into the significant event we are today.” Harding is “…excited to be taking a look back and paying homage to the decades of history, tradition and people that made the Armadillo an iconic Austin destination event.”
Producer Anne Johnson has spent every Christmas Eve of her life at the Armadillo. “It wouldn’t seem like Christmas to me without it,” she says. “…and that’s not unusual. What’s great about the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is that you have many families attending for decades now, yet it’s a perfect holiday shopping event for visitors and tourists as well. It is one of the few ‘old Austin’ traditions that has survived the influx of festivals and the city’s rapid growth – and remained strong. People really appreciate the culture and history,” she says. “Plus, everyone loves a good party. Our 40th milestone this year makes it even more exciting. We can’t wait.”
Tickets are $8 for a single-day pass; available at the door, or in advance online. For best value, purchase a season pass (for a limited time), which allows for entry throughout the duration of the show. Free admission for children 12 and under. More information at
Merry Christmas, y'all.

Home for the Holidays
Smells Like Love Yeast-Dusted Dinner Rolls

The holiday potluck at church was 3 days away when I decided I'd make homemade yeast rolls for everyone. I'd lain awake the night before dreaming about the ooh's and aah's my pan fulls of pillowy, fragrant, buttery baked parcels of delight would elicit from the appreciative eaters. How impressed the ladies of the church would be to find a big basket of golden scratch-baked dinner rolls among the gelatin molds, casseroles, and pressure cookers. As churchgoers dug into overflowing plates , someone would loudly ask through gasps of delight "Who made these dinner rolls?!?" and a hush would fall over the crowd, the mystery holding the room enrapt until the squeaking swinging metal door of the kitchen burst open and out emerged me-- another pan of warm rolls delivered with the pageantry only a young housewife had the nerve to attempt, wisps of hair wildly out of place, light perspiration resting on her cheeks, wire-rimmed glasses inching down the bridge of her nose, pink flushed cheeks dusted with smudges of flour. A grin teasing at the corners of her mouth as she so desperately tried to pull off humility but succumbed to the enthusiastic cheers.........

Wait.This had to be a dream, right? Why? Well because I'd never made a dinner roll. I'd never baked bread. I barely knew how to preheat the oven and I'd never taken anything but a salad to the few potluck dinners I'd attended. I was just shy of 20 years old ,a housewife of 2 Christmases, and almost 700 miles away from all of my family, and the holidays of home. 

I'd already blushed fiercely through the annual Mothers' Day ritual-in-the-pews determining the youngest mother in the congregation. I knew when the ceremony began, barring any surprise child-bride visiting relatives, that this was one competition for which I only need show up to win. I had skipped through several stages of Maslow's model of development, and there I sat precociously with a pretty little infant girl bouncing in my lap, dressed in one half of a matching homemade set--- black calico mother and daughter dresses with white lace collars and red grosgrain bows at the neckline. It was my first Mothers' Day and I'd been up the entire night before sitting at my Singer sewing machine, emulating my mother and hers before. The last hemstitches were knotted as baby and Dad awoke. One warm bottle for her, and a warm cup of coffee for him later and baby and Mom kissed the church-averse cheek of Dad on their way off. Afterwards, I was too young to understand the few whispers, and awkward giggles in church--- had no idea that many in the church thought I was an (gasp!!!)---unwed mother. It didn't even occur to me until years later that I might have been the reason the last Youngest Mother award bestowed had been mine. 

So you see I had something to prove. Always something to prove. And my kitchen was the laboratory for so many attempts. Failed attempts. So many meals collectively pronounced failures by various juries. The older husband had taken over cooking entirely for a while-- I assure you this was no improvement, but it cemented my status as a joke in the kitchen. Don't for a minute think that the irony of this so many years since is lost on me. 

But back to the fantasy dinner rolls. THIS WAS IT! This was how I was going to prove myself worthy. I had 3 days, and 2 of those days my spouse would be off on the railroad-- PERFECT timing for these were always the windows of opportunity I took to learn something without mockery or interference. I'd taught myself to drive a standard, and in the future would learn to tool around on that 3 wheeler I'd never been allowed to enjoy, finance the purchase of our first house through a bond program and teach myself how to paint and wallpaper a bedroom. I'd also take one of those windows of opportunity to find a new place to live years later, but that's a much different story.

Long story not quite so long (but definitely not short), it took all of those 2 days, several tearful dissolutions, about $15 in wasted groceries, and $27 in long distance charges to my Mom who had no idea how to bake rolls, but talked me though said tears, Those were the ingredients of my first failed batches. The neighbor and I buttered those flattened rolls that refused to rise and ate whole pans while our babies napped and we shared a cup of coffee and complaint. Too soon, the babies woke, and we returned to our tasks, and that meant me trying another batch. 

On the third morning, the day I rose way before the sun, I'd resolved to succeed or beg off of attending. Sickness wouldn't be too far off; with over 48 sleepless hours interrupted only by a 2 hour nap, I was feeling pretty ragged. But I drug up with optimism I had no business owning, and threw my all at a last attempt; all or nothing, I was making 100 rolls. Or not. 

I settled on the basic recipe much like one I use today, and cranked them out pan by pan setting each on a rack to cool only enough to wrap, lay each tray in a single layer across the back seat. Hurriedly dressed my tot and myself for church, brushed past returned Dad with a kiss, and off we sped. 

I thought they were majestic, but much like how you have no idea how you did on that test you studied a week for, I was unsure they'd be received with enthusiasm. 

There was no cheering of the masses. There was no surprise, or awe, or grudging admiration, or instant acceptance into the fold of crafty and accomplished housewives. That day as I struggled out of the car with baby, Bible, lessons and purse, one of the deacons sent his teenaged son to help me gather and carry. With his arms outstretched, I gingerly placed two sheet pans of rolls in his grip with the same care I exercised with the baby on my hip. "BE CAREFUL", I threatened him as he playfully mock-juggled with a grin. And then....then he held them close to his face and inhaled their yeasty fragrance and said, simply, more than any crowd of applause or admiration could ever say...

Mmmmm Smells like love.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Classic Dinner Rolls
Yield 2 dozen


1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 package active dry yeast (1 scant tablespoon)
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl and plastic wrap, and buttering finished roll
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flou
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast


In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the warm water, a pinch of sugar, and yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes. Using the dough-hook attachment, mix on low speed, adding milk, butter, remaining sugar, salt, and 2 lightly beaten eggs. Gradually add enough flour to form a sticky but manageable dough. Transfer the dough to a large buttered bowl; cover tightly with buttered plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours.

Line 1 large or 2 small baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn out dough onto a floured work surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to a 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut 24 rounds of dough as closely together as possible. Place rounds 1/4 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let rolls rise until they are light and do not spring back when pressed with your fingertip, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Bake until rolls are golden brown, 20 to 23 minutes. Remove from oven, butter tops, and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This Holiday season on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for Dressing 3 Ways: Oyster, Rice, & Cornbread, Golden Yeast-Dusted Dinner Rolls, Mashed Potatoes with Giblet Gravy, Lemony Green Beans dressed in Sherry, Shallot Hazelnut & Herbs, Oyster Dressing-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Quail, Sherried Sage Peppercorn pan sauce, and not shown, Cranberry Apricot Brandy Sauce, Persimmon Pudding, and Orange Blossom Ambrosia.

Farmers Market Favorite
Pan-roasted Root Vegetable Dressing with Gulf Shrimp and Mushrooms (Gluten free)

Pan-roasted Root Vegetable Dressing with fresh Gulf Shrimp and Mushrooms (gluten free)

Yield 4-6 servings

finally, a little suggestion that winter may be on its way at last, the weekend market morning was brisk and bustling with holiday shoppers. Market-goers were eager to try a little something new to serve on their holiday buffet. 

arriving at the market with no recipe in mind other than two general goals: Utilize the best and freshest the market had to offer, and Lend a new, seasonal, wholesome dish to the festive table rotation, I was inspired by K & S Seafood's beautiful, fresh from the gulf shrimp to develop an earthy, rustic, root vegetable dressing. For Saturday's market, a traditional bread-based dressing was prepared, and Sunday's market, a gluten free version that substitutes oyster, shitake, and baby bella mushrooms for Saturday's sourdough bread cubes. 

find both versions below, along with complete nutrition information, and links to the tfm vendor sources utilized to prepare this farmers Market Favorite.

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cooking oil
1 Rutabaga, peeled and cut into small matchsticks
1 small bunch carrots, with greens—carrots scrubbed and sliced, with greens minced finely and reserved
1 pound fingerling sweet potatoes—scrubbed and sliced
1+ cup each, assorted mushrooms—shitake, oyster, baby bella, sliced
Salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence

Coat skillet lightly with cooking oil. In a single layer, cook shrimp, seasoned with Herbes de Provence, over medium heat on each side until just opaque.  Remove and reserve.
Add cooking oil to coat skillet, as needed.  Sauté rutabaga, carrots, carrot greens, and sweet potatoes, seasoned with Herbes de Provence, over medium heat until just tender. Remove and reserve.
Add cooking oil to coat skillet as needed.  Increase heat to medium high.  Saute mushrooms, seasoned with Herbes de Provence, stirring frequently, until juices have released and reduced, and mushrooms are browned and slightly crisped on edges.

Return shrimp and root vegetables to pan. Toss well to mix all elements, salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Nutrition analysis from Nutrition Data.

Bread-Based Version

Ingredients above, substituting toasted bread cubes, below, for mushrooms.

1/2 loaf whole wheat sourdough boule, cubed, 2t balsamic vinegar, and Additional cooking oil, as needed.

Preheat broiler. Scatter bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. drizzle over with cooking oil and balsamic vinegar. toast under broiler until golden, remove, toss, toast again, repeating until bread cubes are browned on all sides. toss with shrimp and root vegetables in skillet, heat through, correcting seasoning. 

Nutrition analysis from Nutrition Data.

Texas Farmers' Market Vendor sources:
K & S Seafood-- fresh gulf Shrimp
JbG Organics-- Rutabaga, Carrots
Manheim Market gardens-- fingerling sweet Potatoes
Kitchen Pride Mushrooms-- Shitake, Oyster, Baby bella Mushrooms
Artisan Oven-- Whole Wheat sourdough for Bread-Based option

Home for the Holidays
Lemony Green Beans dressed in Sherry | Shallot | Hazelnut | Herbs

Green bean casserole. There are lovers and there are haters. And a few folks in between.

I'm one of those in between. I like the version EXACTLY like my mother made. I want french-cut green beans, little factory-cubed morsels of mushroom, slivered almonds (not sliced, not chopped, NOT absent), and I want the topping of canned fried onions to remain crispy, please. My demands aren't many, are they?

We have a history, green beans and my mother's dinners, that is. We had canned green beans several times a week, if memory serves me. A healthy dollop of bacon grease, a sprinkling of dried minced onion, a little too much salt. I had no complaints. They were my favorite of the canned vegetables in rotation, in fact. I'd never had fresh green beans-- wouldn't even know what they tasted like until later in childhood, when Mom cooked a fresh pot with bacon (with MEAT on it) and the same dried minced onion. If I recall correctly, I ate them. But they weren't REAL green beans like the ones from the can.

My appetites have matured over the years, and I haven't had a canned green bean of my own preparing in decades. Green beans grow well in the South, and they can be found at markets well into winter. I learned a little over the years about preparing green beans that remained both green, and bean in appearance and texture, and became even more a fan of fresh than my childhood appetite-preferred canned.

And this dish is so QUICK. In the time it takes to open 8 cans, you're well on your way to a sophisticated, impressive vegetable side for the holiday table that might just sway the most stalwart casserole-committed among your guests.

I've played it fast and loose with the measurements, here. I'll share the proportions just as I would prepare them.

Green Beans-- allow for a healthy handful per serving
Shallot-- one shallot per serving
Olive Oil-- a glug of oil to cover small saucepan by 1/4 inch
Thyme-- a small sprig per serving
Parsley-- minced, about a teaspoon per serving
Hazelnut-- an ounce or so per serving, slightly cracked
Sherry-- about a jigger full for 4 servings
Lemon-- about 1 lemon for every 2-4 servings, both juice and zest
Sea Salt and freshly-ground black pepper-- to taste

Trim beans of any strings and ends. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drop beans in boiling water and continue at the boil for about 4 minutes or until still slightly crisp, but tender enough to bite. When done to your liking, strain from the boiling water and place directly into ice water bath to blanch for about 2 minutes. Remove to drain on paper toweling.

To prepare dressing, warm olive oil in small saucepan over medium low heat. Add sliced shallots, thyme sprigs, minced parsley, and smashed hazelnuts (I just put them between two layers of towel and smash with my kitchen mallet a few times. Don't want to pulverize the hazelnuts-- just make them manageable to eat and promote infusion.) Cook low and slow until shallots are completely wilted. Add sherry to the pan, raise heat to medium, and cook five minutes, stirring frequently. Add lemon juice and warm through, about 2 minutes.

Add reserved green beans to dressing, tossing to coat in pan. Transfer to a serving dish and grate lemon zest over.  Season with salt, cracked black pepper, and additional lemon juice if desired.

This Holiday season on Notes from Maggie's Farm, look for Dressing 3 Ways: Oyster, Rice, & Cornbread, Mashed Potatoes with Giblet Gravy, Golden Yeast Rolls, Lemony Green Beans dressed in Sherry, Shallot Hazelnut & Herbs, Oyster Dressing-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Quail, Sherried Sage Peppercorn pan sauce, and not shown, Cranberry Apricot Brandy Sauce, Persimmon Pudding, and Orange Blossom Ambrosia.

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