Winter Solstice is the day with the least amount of sunlight. It is a day we huddle close to friends and family and rely on hearth, home, laughter, and good company to provide light and cheer. It is with these inspirations in mind that I have created a delicious celebratory menu with selections designed to warm and comfort. Here is my 5-course menu with optional wine pairing. Enjoy!
Menu In a Nutshell
Winter Solstice Soup accompanied by Delicious Gluten-Free Biscuits
(optional pairing: Pinot Noir)
Gluten-free Ricotta Pound Cake with Warm Whipped Cream Cheese
(optional pairing: Soave )
(optional pairing: Chardonnay )
Harvest Pot Roast accompanied by Pan-Roasted Mushrooms & Asparagus and Yorkshire Pudding
(optional pairing: Petite Sirah )
Gluten-Free Yule Log Cake with Cream Cheese Filling accompanied by Meringue Mushrooms
(optional pairing: Prosecco)
First Course: Soup
Winter Solstice Soup:
Reprinted from allrecipes.com and submitted by Sara Mayes, this simple yet delicious soup served as the perfect opening course!
- 2 tablespoons margarine
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter or margarine and saute the onions for 5 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the carrots, potatoes, water, salt, parsley, thyme and bay leaf.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf.
- Puree the soup in a blender or food processor in small batches and return to the pot. Stir in the milk, mixing well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Delicious Gluten-Free Biscuits:
These biscuits did not taste gluten-free and had my guests hinting for seconds! This recipe hails from one of my new all-time favorite blogs for gluten-free cooking, Only Sometimes Clever. On her site, Karen Joy has named these The Best GFCF (not-very-healthy) Biscuits Ever. Her blog excerpt follows:
Makes six-eight large biscuits
- 2 cups Best Gluten-Free Flour Mix Ever
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup Butter-flavored Crisco
- 3/4 cup Mocha Mix liquid non-dairy creamer
Preheat oven to 450*.
Hand-held pastry blender
In a large bowl, mix flour blend, baking powder and salt with a whisk. Combine thoroughly. With a pastry blender, cut in Butter-flavored Crisco until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With a wooden spoon, stir in Mocha Mix, mix well.
The dough should not be sticky at this point. I simply roll it out on my countertop, unfloured. But if your dough is a tad sticky, do flour your countertop and rolling pin with more of the flour mix.
Onto your countertop, turn out the dough, and “knead” lightly. Kneading non-gluten dough isn’t like kneading regular wheat dough. You simply gather it together, pat it out a bit, turn it over double on itself, then pat out again. The more times you turn the dough over on itself, the more of a ‘layered/flaky’ result your biscuits will have. Use a rolling pin to bring your dough to about 1/2″ thick. With a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter (or sharp-edged cup), cut biscuits. Use a spatula to transfer biscuits to ungreased baking sheet (I use a pizza stone). Let edges of unbaked biscuits barely touch. Gather remaining dough scraps and repeat the “kneading” and rolling process until dough is used up.
Alternately, when I a hurry, I skip the countertop part, and just grab a handful of dough, patting it out in my hand to a slightly-lumpy circle shape. These ill-formed biscuits taste just as great, but don’t cut as cleanly.
Bake about 15 minutes, or until golden.
As an alcoholic choice, pinot noir works well with potato soup. I also served Vignette Wine Country Pinot Noir Soda as a very enjoyable non-alcoholic alternative.
Second Course: Bread
Gluten-free Ricotta Pound Cake:
I cannot say enough about this recipe, which hails from another amazing gluten-free resource, Art of Gluten Free Baking! For starters, nobody has ever complained let alone even noticed that it is gluten-free.
In addition, its uses are virtually unlimited! I give it as gifts. I serve it as dessert. It makes the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea; it even serves as a highly sought after breakfast… and snacking, well just forget about it, for though it makes a perfect quick bite, there are never any leftovers to nibble on!
In the current context, it acts as the bread course served with warm, whipped cream cheese. Enjoy!
1 1/2 C Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 C whole milk ricotta
3 large or extra large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 vanilla bean
extra butter and tapioca flour for pan
Preheat oven to 350
-butter and flour loaf or bundt pan
-in a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside
-in bowl of mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy
-add ricotta, continue to beat
-add sugar, continue to beat
-add vanilla extract
-split vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle and scrape out the seeds into the mixture, beat (discard outer shell of bean)
-add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition
-beat this a little longer, so it’s light and fluffy
-with mixer on low, beat in dry ingredients
-mix until just combined, do not overmix
-pour batter into prepared pan
-thump pan on counter to release any trapped air bubbles
-bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hr–until a tester comes out clean
-cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely
- I use Karen Joy’s gluten-free all purpose flour mix.
- Also, for my money, the vanilla bean (my specific preference would be from Uganda) is not optional, it is required! (so good and so aesthetically pleasing!)
Warm, whipped cream cheese – no recipe here. Just whip it up and pop it in the microwave!
Crisp dry whites are the name of the game to pair with sweet ricotta treats. I chose a Soave (Veneto region). As a non-alcoholic alternative, I went with a sophisticated sparkling pear.
Third Course: Salad
Most people think green and leafy when the time for the salad course approaches, so serving ambrosia tends to surprise and delight! The trick to the best ambrosia is definitely to make your own marshmallows… not nearly as difficult as you might think, and sooooooo good!
Serves: 6 servings
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 ounces sour cream
- 6 ounces homemade mini marshmallows, approximately 3 cups
- 1 cup clementine orange segments, approximately 6 clementines
- 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
- 1 cup freshly grated coconut
- 1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries
Place the cream and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine. Add the marshmallows, orange, pineapple, coconut, pecans and cherries and stir to combine. Transfer to a glass serving bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.
Homemade Marshmallows: (Yup! That’s me!)
- 3 packages unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup ice cold water, divided
- 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- Nonstick spray
Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
For regular marshmallows:
Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
For miniature marshmallows:
Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners’ sugar mixture.
Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight.
Cut into 1/2 inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Oaked Chardonnay. I also offered Vignette Wine Country Chardonnay Soda as a delicious non-alcoholic alternative.
Fourth Course: Main
Roast Prime Rib:
The Roast Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding recipes came from Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac 2011-2012 pp. 67-68. Available here from Amazon.com. This book contains many wonderful seasonal ideas and recipes and is well worth the purchase. Alternately I am sure many similar recipes are available free online. Click here for a similar Yorkshire Pudding Recipe.
- I used grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free beef from Whole Foods and gluten-free flour.
- I convection-baked my roast and was very pleased with the way it sealed in the juices.
Buttery Pan Roasted Mushrooms and Asparagus:
- 1/2 small onion, sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups asparagus, 1 inch chopped tips and most tender parts
- 3 -4 tablespoons butter (no substitutions)
- salt and pepperDirections:
- In a heavy frying pan (I like cast iron)cook onion and butter on med-high to high heat until onion is tender.
- Add mushrooms and cook until they start to brown, stirring often.
- Add asparagus, salt, and pepper to taste and cook until crisp-tender. This dish is best when the asparagus is still a bit crisp and bright green. Serve hot.
Petite Sirah with Sparkling Pomegranate as a non-alcoholic alternative
Fifth Course: Dessert
Gluten-Free Yule Log Cake with Cream Cheese Filling accompanied by Meringue Mushrooms:
I find no shame in occasionally using quality mixes if they are special, and this recipe is an example where I have done just that.
I used a delicious King Arthur gluten-free chocolate cake mix. I bought mine at my local Whole Foods Market, but they are also available at Amazon.com. I then added 2/3 cup raspberry preserves to the batter.
For filling, I used the following:
- 8 oz. Neufchatel cheese
- 1 c confectioners sugar
- 2 T Irish butter
- 1 c walnuts, ground finely in food processor
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Prosecco with a sophisticated all-natural, gourmet ginger ale as a non-alcoholic alternative.
Bon Appetit & Happy Yule!
(pictured: additional meringue confections)