Holiday Eats

Christmas Eve Eve

On Friday I slept in til a lovely late hour and then went swimming at the pool. Michael worked out at home on the bike and with weight lifting. On Friday evening we settled in to enjoy some Christmas movies by the fire! It ended up being a John Hughes marathon that night–Home Alone and Christmas Vacation. Can you believe that Michael had never seen Home Alone before?

Dinner was steak and veggies. I roasted the veggies in some olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic. I loved the roasted veggies. I did sweet onions, broccoli and carrots.

I opened a nice bottle of wine to go with our steak dinner. The wine was a Tempranillo I got at Trader Joe’s and I loved it. I would definitely buy this wine again.

Is there anything better than red wine and red meat together? It was delicious and satisfying. I also sprinkled some Asiago cheese on the roasted veggies–a great addition.

Dessert was one scoop of cookies and cream ice cream, half a serving of M&M’s and one chocolate chip cookie. It was decadent and hit the spot.

It was a great way to end the night.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve we went snowshoeing up on Mount Hood. We were both famished when we got home and I was ready to eat everything in the kitchen. We settled in to watch a Christmas movie of Michael’s choice–Rocky IV don’t ask! — and then we made dinner together. Christmas Eve dinner was Poulet Au Vinaigre (Gina’s Weight Watchers) –chicken, with roasted veggies and Israeli Couscous.

I’ve never had Israeli couscous before. It was…interesting…it wasn’t bad, it was just different. If felt like I was eating miniature pasta noodles or something. It’s hard to describe. For the veggies I used Grapeseed oil this time. Everything turned out alright, so dinner was a success.

After dinner we watched another favorite Christmas movie–Die Hard–and we each opened one present under the tree. Michael did good this year:

Peppermint bark cookies!!!! OMG. Crack in a box! I HAD to have one with dessert.

Merry Christmas!

QUESTION: What was your favorite food this holiday?

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Level: Easy
Serves:4 to 6 servings


Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 (2-pound) butternut or kombucha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
Olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne pasta
1 cup (8 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (see Cook’s Note)
1 packed cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan


Put an oven rack in the upper third of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Spray a baking sheet, liberally, with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

Mix the squash and onion together and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake for to 40 to 45 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

While the squash mixture is cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water. Put the pasta, goat cheese and 1 cup of pasta water in a large serving bowl. Toss until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce. Add the squash and onion mixture, the walnuts and the basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with Parmesan and

Cook’s Note:

To toast the walnuts, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly toasted, about 6 to 8 minutes Cool completely before using.

The original plan for Christmas Eve dinner was to make a Martha Stewart dish–squash with pasta shells. We read through the recipe and realized it called or a squash puree and so we decided to skip the recipe and try this one instead. A friend had given it to me because we both love squash and goat cheese. 😉 (Thanks Kat!)

We didn’t have a butternut squash but the acorn squash worked just as well. Neither of us knew how to “peel” a squash so I Googled it and he tried to find a Youtube video of it. Are we nerds or what? Michael was in charge of peeling the squash since I can’t be trusted with knives.

While he peeled the squash–which took forever mind you–I was in charge of chopping the walnuts and toasting them.

Then I chopped the onion into cubes.

I arranged the squash and onions on the tray and oiled them up to bake.

Michael chopped the fresh basil. It smelled heavenly. There’s nothing better than fresh herbs. If I didn’t have such a black thumb I’d suggest to Michael that we have an herb garden. But that would just be a disaster. (Last year I tried to grow carrots. Nothing grew. Not even a little tiny one!)

While the onions and squash were baking, we watched some of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. And adult beverage may have been enjoyed…

After about 40 minutes I took the squash out of the oven and we started the pasta.

I grated the fresh Parmesan and crumbled up the goat cheese the best I could. It was more like a paste than a crumble. We added the hot pasta water to the bowl with the goat cheese.

Then we added the cooked pasta. I mixed it all around until the pasta was all coated.

Next, added the squash and onions. It smelled wonderful. I could not wait to eat it!

After that Michael added the chopped basil and the walnuts and I mixed it all around to coat evenly.

Topped each plate with some fresh Parmesan and freshly grated pepper and dinner was served!

Dinner was delightful. Everything complimented each other really nicely. The squash was really sweet but the cheese and the basil kept it from being overly sweet. The walnuts were a nice crunchy addition. Michael and I both commented on how bacon would probably work well in the dish. But then when does bacon NOT add something great to a dish?

Final Verdict: I would most definitely make this dish again. The recipe said the prep time was about 10 minutes–not true. Peeling the squash alone took about 30 minutes. But maybe it’s easier with Butternut Squash? I would definitely like to try the recipe with Butternut Squash to see if the flavors are different too.

QUESTION: Have you ever made something similar to this? What did you think? And is there any easier way to peel squash??