The holidaze rush is upon us and you want to feed your family hearty and nutritious without heading through the drive in or filling your fridge with Styrofoam take-out containers. Save a few bucks and make this meal instead. Literally, it can be ready in 30 minutes. You’ll need a big cast-iron skillet, your oven, and a cutting board and sharp knife. Super easy. You can cut up the bacon first and then while that cooks, cut up onions, then peppers, then Brussels sprouts, then the sausage. Or if you have a few extra minutes, get it all prepared before you start cooking and while you cook, enjoy a warm seasonal beverage with brandy.
2 pounds of smoked sausage or kielbasa, sliced into one-inch chunks
6 strips of bacon, cut up into one-inch chunks
1/2 cup of sliced red and sweet onions (you want about one-inch rings, quartered)
Red & Yellow bell peppers, one inch chunks
2 cups of sliced Brussels sprouts
Paprika (optional, but really adds to the dish)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take the bacon and fry up in a cast-iron skillet. Until it’s almost crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels. Leave the bacon drippings in the pan and then put in onions. Cook for one minute. Stirring occasionally. Then add peppers. Cook the onions and peppers together for one minute. Stirring occasionally. Then add in the Brussels sprouts and cook between three and five minutes, also stirring occasionally. Remember, this is called Polish Stirfry. Then add in the sausage. Put a lid on the pan and cook for about two minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the lid off, stir again, add the bacon, add the salt, pepper, and paprika, stir again. Then put cast-iron pan without lid in oven for about 10 minutes until sprouts are fork tender. Serve immediately. If you’re in a super hurry, you don’t need to do the oven part — just stir-fry a bit longer on the stove top. But roasting all the meat and veggies together creates a yummier flavor.
Ever since I lived in Europe, the holidaze are not the same without Mulled Wine. My first exposure to it was at the Deutsche Weihnachtsmarkts (German Christmas Markets), which are all outdoors. Little kiosks dot the central squares with fire pits for warming in between the vendors selling homemade wares, foods, holiday decorations, roasted chestnuts, and of course Glühwein, all while festive musicians and dancers entertain the holiday shoppers. Then I learned about Gløgg, brandied version of mulled wine from my Nordic neighbors. Next I tasted Vin Chaud in Paris. And in December of 1995, it was vareno vino in Macedonia. Often in the European Christmas Markets you could pay a deposit (around $5) and get to keep the mug, that would be a souvenir for that holiday season. I have several in my collection that I still use today. It would be a few years back living in the states where I was suddenly missing such a wonderful traditions. Getting an outdoor market, however, in America was not going to happen, but I sure could make some mulled wine myself and it’s super easy. You can do it, too. The recipe below is enough to serve about three adults for an evening or afternoon in the holiday season of wrapping presents or coming back from skiing. However, I use my big crock pot so a box of wine triples the recipe and fills the crock. Not to worry, trust me, this goes fast, especially if you’re entertaining.
1 bottle of red wine (it doesn’t need to be fancy, hence the box o’ wine)
2 oranges — one that you will poke with whole cloves, another that you will peel and slice out
Enough whole cloves to pierce one orange.
Apple Cider (you can use juice in a pinch)
Food-grade kitchen twine
Poke the one orange with the cloves to intermingle the aromatics of the orange and cloves.
It should look something like this:
Put the clove-studded orange in the crock pot. Next make your aromatics bag. Break the cinnamon stick at least in half before adding to release even more cinnamon goodness. Add a few whole star anise (about a tablespoon) and cardamon (about a teaspoon), and a few slices of crystallized ginger.
Tie up the aromatics bag and stick in crock pot.
Pour the whole bottle of wine into the crock pot. next add 2 cups of apple cider. Then the peels and orange slices of the second orange. Add a few shots of brandy if you’re so inclined (this is more Gløgg than Glühwein).
Turn on low (use high if you’re in a hurry, but it will still take an hour or more to get ready on high) and let it fill the air with its holiday goodness. When it’s warm like tea, it’s ready to drink. Be sure to ladle in one orange slice into each mug. After it’s warmed, be sure to turn your crock to “keep warm” setting. You don’t want this boiling.
Sip around the fire with twinkle lights comfy clothes and your favorite people. Goes very well with roasted chestnuts or Yule cookies. Enjoy.
No, you don’t download this baby on your phone, it’s strictly for your belly.
‘Tis the season for potlucks and office parties and gatherings of all sorts. So here’s an easy, in season, appetizer you can trot out easily and quickly. Seriously, it has two main ingredients outside of cooking spray and pepper. You’ll need a cast-iron pan or foil and any oven-proof pan with a roasting rack. If you read any of my recipes, you’ll know that I love cooking with Cast Iron. Prefer it, actually. Lastly, tooth picks. Don’t get the kind with the plastic thrills because the toothpicks go in the oven.
How much you make is really up to you. Each slice of bacon will cover two halves of one Brussels sprouts. This makes two bite-size portions. So, decide how many guests you’re feeding and make sure you have about four bites, at least, for each guest. For me, I just fill it until my cast-iron pan is full. Leftover bacon or Brussels sprouts can always be used in another recipe down the road.
The easiest way to grease the pan for the oven is with cooking spray, but you could rub olive oil on the pan or a stick of butter. I would avoid using bacon grease or lard in this recipe because of it may overpower the sprouts.
I always eyeball the bacon piece center to the top of the dome of the sprout and allow the ends of the strip to meet at the bottom of the sprout. Some may overlap. Don’t stress on it. Makes it nice and neat for plating if you decide to plate your appetizer instead of eating out of the cast-iron pan. I have a country kitchen. We’re not afraid to serve our food in the pot.
Depending on the size of your sprouts, you might want to check on these at 20 minutes of roasting. We like ours a bit crispier and I’ve been known to keep them in for 35 minutes.
Even picky people seem to like this one. You won’t make the vegetarians happy, but next week, I’ll provide an appetizer recipe if you have vegetarians coming to your holiday gathering.
Cast-iron pan — or foil-wrapped oven-proof pan with roasting rack
Plain wooden toothpicks
Bacon slices, cut in half horizontally
Brussels Sprouts, fresh, with ends trimmed and cut in half.
Pepper to Taste
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray your cast iron with a coating of cooking spray. Wrap bacon piece around each Brussels sprout half and secure with wooden pick. Place sprouts cut-side down on in the pan. Sprinkle with fresh-ground pepper to taste. Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until bacon is crisp and Brussels sprouts are tender.