13 Fast Ideas


By Sarah DiGregorio and Janet Taylor McCracken
Photos by Sarah Anne Ward
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Aw, honey: Attach dippers to your jars using festive washi tape. Pretty sweet!

1. Infused Honey Trio

  • 3 cups honey
  • 2 tbsp. pink peppercorns
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 star anise

  • Divide honey among 3 half-pint jars with lids. Stir peppercorns into first jar. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into second jar; stir to incorporate, then add bean pod. In small saucepan, boil vinegar with star anise until reduced to ¼ cup, 4 to 5 minutes; let cool. Stir into third jar of honey. Cover jars. Makes 3 cups.

2. Matcha-Sesame Bark

  • 2 lbs. white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. matcha green tea powder
  • 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds

  • In bowl, microwave 1½ lbs. chocolate at 50 percent power in 15-second increments, stirring in between, until melted, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining chocolate to melt. Pour half onto foil-lined baking sheet; spread to ¼ inch thick. Stir matcha into remaining chocolate; dollop over chocolate on sheet. Swirl with knife. Top with sesame seeds. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Break into pieces. Makes 2 lbs.

4. Tangy Escarole Salad

  • ¾ cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 small head escarole, torn
  • 1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves

  • In skillet, toast pecans over medium, stirring often, until fragrant, 2 minutes; let cool. In bowl, whisk EVOO, lemon juice and mustard; season. Toss in all remaining ingredients; season. Serves 4.

5. Garam Masala Lentils

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cans (15 to 15.5 oz. each) lentils, drained
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion

  • In skillet, cook yellow onion in oil over medium-high, 10 minutes; season. Stir in next 4 ingredients. Cook until lentils are heated through, about 3 minutes; transfer to bowls. Top with yogurt and red onion. Serves 4.

3. Winter Pesto

  • 2 cups (packed) parsley with tender stems
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • ½ tsp. lemon zest and 1 tbsp. juice
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup EVOO

  • In food processor, pulse parsley, cheese, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, garlic and 2 tbsp. water until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add EVOO; season. Cover and refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.

6. Holiday Nachos

  • 2 onions, sliced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • ½ cup chipotle sauce
  • 8 oz. tortilla chips
  • 1½ cups grated white cheddar
  • Pomegranate seeds and cilantro, for garnish

  • In skillet, brown onions in oil over medium-high, stirring, 15 minutes. Mix in chicken and chipotle. In baking dish, layer half the chips, half the chicken and half the cheese; repeat. Broil until cheese melts, 7 minutes; garnish. Serves 6.

7. Ranch Chicken Bake

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 lbs. total)
  • 1 lb. red potatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 package (1 oz.) ranch dip mix
  • ½ cup torn fresh dill
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

  • On baking sheet, toss first 4 ingredients. Arrange in an even layer; season. Roast at 450° until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Top with remaining ingredients. Serves 4.

8. Homemade Olive Oil Crackers

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Flaky sea salt

  • In processor, blend flour, sugar and ¾ tsp. fine salt. Add 3 tbsp. oil and 8 to 9 tbsp. water; pulse until dough forms. Divide in half. On a floured surface, roll out each half very thinly. Cut into 1-by-3-inch strips and place on parchment-lined baking sheets; brush with oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake at 425° until browned at edges, about 13 minutes; let cool. Store airtight at room temperature. Makes about 2 dozen.

9. Herbed Cheese Spread

  • 2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning

  • In food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth; season. Transfer to jars; refrigerate. Serve at room temperature. Makes 3 cups.

10. Kale Poppers

  • 1 lb. kale, stemmed
  • 8 oz. ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1½ cups panko
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tbsp. refrigerated pesto

  • In salted, boiling water, cook kale until wilted, 5 minutes. Drain, let cool and squeeze dry; chop. In medium bowl, mix kale, ricotta, eggs and flour with ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Form into 1½-inch balls; roll in panko. In skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Fry balls, turning often, until golden all over, about 4 minutes. In small bowl, mix sour cream and pesto for dip. Makes 32.

11. Spiced Fruitcake Cider

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. dried allspice berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 oz. fresh apple cider
  • 2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz. tart cherry juice
  • ¾ tsp. almond extract
  • 4 dashes bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Maraschino cherries and candied orange peel, for garnish

  • In saucepan, bring sugar, allspice, cinnamon and ¼ cup water to a boil; let cool. Strain into cocktail shaker; shake with next 6 ingredients. Strain into 4 coupe glasses; garnish. Makes 4.

12. Italian Gnocchi Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lb. gnocchi
  • 5 oz. spinach
  • ¼ cup diced pancetta

  • In saucepan, cook onion and carrots in oil over medium-high until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in seasoning, then stock; simmer 15 minutes, stirring gnocchi and spinach into soup during last 2 minutes of cooking. In nonstick skillet, crisp pancetta over medium, stirring, about 8 minutes. Top soup with pancetta. Serves 4.

13. Mini Mediterranean Frittatas

  • ¾ cup grated Gruyère
  • ½ cup finely chopped store-bought roasted red bell peppers
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup sliced pitted Kalamata olives
  • 12 eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • In bowl, mix cheese, peppers, parsley and olives. Divide among 12 paper-lined muffin cups. In bowl, beat eggs, cream, ¾ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper; pour into cups. Bake at 375° until puffed, 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12.