Christmas 2016: Arugula Salad, Tri-Tip with Horseradish Cream, Corn Casserole, Roasted Veggies, Biscuits, Pumpkin Cupcakes

Last post of the year! It’s been a lot of fun starting this blog and I while I knew I liked cooking, I really discovered this year just how much I love it. It’s been so much fun researching new recipes, adapting recipes to my family’s tastes, and building some of my own. I look forward to a very nom-nom-nom-y 2017 – Happy New Year and see you soon with new posts!

Arugula Salad with Prosciutto, Tomatoes, and Mozzarella

This is the same salad that I made for Christmas Eve 2016 except I subbed fresh mozzarella for the burrata (it was cheaper…). It’s very easy to put together, which makes it a good choice when you want a quick appetizer salad. Topped with the same honey-lemon dressing from the night before as well, but I think it would taste good with whatever your favorite dressing is.


Tri-Tip with Horseradish Cream

The horseradish cream is a nice accompaniment for a lot of beef roasts. It’s nice and easy to make the night before (or even a couple nights before), so you have one less thing to do the day-of. Making it a few days ahead also gives the cream a good amount of time for the flavors to meld together.

I will forever make fun of my husband because instead of buying horseradish root, he brought home a knob of ginger instead. “They look the same!” (No, they don’t). “They were in the same area!” (No, they weren’t). “Ugh!” (Haha!). Oh, and the horseradish root had a label on it that said…wait for it…”Horseradish Root.” It’s also now memorialized in writing, so I will definitely always remember.

To make the cream sauce, I used:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup + about 2 tbsp freshly grated horseradish 
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • Couple dashes of kosher salt
  • A few grinds of fresh pepper

I combined everything together in a bowl, used my husband as a taste tester (original amount of 1/4 cup of horseradish wasn’t enough so added in the extra) and let it sit for 2 days. I think you only need to let it sit for a couple hours, but I tried to make as much as I could ahead of time to save time on the day-of.


Tri-tip is a triangular cut of meat from the bottom sirloin (read up a bit on it here, including a some recipes: The Food Lab). It’s a very Californian meat (Santa Maria is a city in California that popularized this cut), so not the easiest to find elsewhere.

Side story/vent: My husband found it at our local butcher, but it was untrimmed and had a huge fat cap on it that the guy conveniently kept on the bottom and didn’t show him (I weighed it after I cut it off – it was literally a pound of fat) and was therefore far too expensive for what we got. The butcher remarked that 2.5 lbs of the tri-tip would be more than enough to feed our party of 6 and have leftovers. Oh, how nice of him to save him money from buying two, right? Well, he failed to note that 1 lb of the 2.5 lbs was a layer of fat. While I could see how someone who hasn’t bought tri-tip before not knowing about the fat cap, it was the fact that the butcher made a very specific comment about the weight of “meat” that upset me. After my initial grumbling that the butcher gipped him and took advantage that he was inexperienced in buying that cut, we decided it wasn’t worth the negative reaction since it’s hard to find where we are and after all, it’s for Christmas! (However, we will be taking our business elsewhere from now on…)

Anyway, I adapted this recipe from Chef Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. The biggest changes I made were that I salted it the night before with the rest of the spices and I reverse-seared it instead of pre-searing it.

The hardest part of this recipe is removing all the silver skin, but it’s really important to do so that the spices can penetrate the meat and so it will brown properly when you sear it. I recently got a small paring knife that was really helpful and less scary to use for this task.

It then got a good rub of cayenne pepper, paprika, and kosher salt and sat in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking it. About 30 minutes before sticking it in the oven, I took it out of the fridge to come to room temperature and I pre-heated the oven to 300°F. The tri-tip went onto a roasting pan and went into the oven until the inside temperature reached 132°F (I keep a temperature probe stuck inside the thickest part of the meat to gauge this). I kept it on the rarer side of medium rare because there wasn’t a lot of marbling. If there had been more fat, I would have cooked it to a little higher temperature more on the medium side, like 135°F or so.

Tri-tip when it came out of the oven before searing

After taking it out of the oven, I removed it from the roasting pan and let it sit for a bit while I heated up my cast iron. I spooned in some clarified butter, a few smashed garlic cloves, and a couple small sprigs of rosemary until the pan was smoking. I then seared each side of the tri-tip for about 45 seconds or so until it got a nice char on the outside. My husband did the honors of slicing it up (against the grain of course!)

Plate of meat – nope, we didn’t bother plating it nicely

And because who doesn’t like a close-up of a bit ol’ plate of meat:

Close-up of the sliced tri-tip, cut against the grain

Corn Casserole

This is Stella Park’s Sweet and Savory Corn Casserole recipe. I didn’t really measure the weight of the onion or bell pepper and just used what I already had. I also didn’t use the entire cup of cheese and just sprinkled it on top so that it was mostly covered – it was maybe half a cup or so of shredded cheese (recipe calls for a full cup).


The sage makes this dish smell so incredibly good as you’re sauteing the corn and onion. It was seriously amazing. I must have had a smaller diameter cast iron because it took an additional 10 minutes or so past the recipe time for the middle of the casserole to set and for the edges to brown. The final product was very delicious! And it was so easy to transfer the cast iron from oven to table without having to find another serving dish. Also, this tastes good as leftovers the next day (and the next)!

Corn casserole

Roasted Vegetables

I made sure not to forget the vegetables for this meal (unlike Thanksgiving 2015…) and wanted something relatively easy to throw together since the other dishes were a bit more involved. I par-cooked the cut carrots and the cubed sweet potatoes, tossed those together with the squash in olive oil and laid them all out in a single layer on a baking sheet. I sprinkled with with salt, and stuck it in a 425°F oven until they started to brown (or in some cases, blacken…) on the bottom. I actually cooked this on the bottom rack of the same oven I baked the biscuits in and just put them in earlier.


Buttermilk Biscuits

This is the third or fourth time I’ve made these, and I swear they’re getting tastier every time :). The previous time was my Buttermilk Biscuits & Sausage Gravy experience. This is the same thing, except these were pure buttermilk and didn’t have any scallions or cheese this time. My husband bought me this amazingly cute bread basket a few days before Christmas, so of course I had to stick them in there (can’t see the cuteness in this picture though).


Pumpkin Cupcakes

I didn’t want anything too overwhelming for dessert and I had extra cans of pumpkin leftover from when I stocked up before Thanksgiving. I used the Pumpkin Cupcakes recipe from The Food Network. I followed the cupcake part of the recipe pretty closely, but adapted the frosting part of the recipe to only use 1.5 tbsp of maple syrup (instead of 2 tbsps) and 1 cup of powdered sugar (instead of 2 cups). Yes, this is a very significant reduction from the recipe and no, no one noticed.

I made the cupcake portion 2 days before and kept them at room temperature and then made the frosting the  morning of and kept it in the fridge in a large Ziploc bag. I cut off the corner of the bag and frosted the cupcakes right before serving them. It was the perfect portion size to polish off a big dinner.





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