Tis the season to be jolly. While tree trimming can be time-consuming, it can also be a great reason to gather a few close friends and make a party of it. Parties mean delicious foods, good company and plenty of laughter.
Most years, we put up the Christmas Tree the day after Thanksgiving. I say most years, because this year, with all its emotional upheavals, we have yet to string a single light. Still, I wanted to share a menu from our past – all red and green and delicious. While Mexican dishes might not be your cup of tea for a tree trimming celebration, I hope it will inspire you to create your own “Red and Green” themed menu.
***** On the Menu *****
Red & Green Cheese Enchiladas
Green Toss Salad with a Vinaigrette Dressing
Red Spanish Rice (Uncle Ben’s Quick Rice)
Caramel Custard Flan With Meringue
***** The Plan *****
First and foremost, have your decorations organized and ready well in advance. Stage them in the garage or wherever you need to that is easily accessible when ready to trim the tree. Speaking of trees – you can get your tree in the morning before your “invited” crew arrives, or make it part of the festivities – that’s entirely up to you. A lot will depend upon your tree traditions – are you are cutting a fresh tree from a nearby farm or selecting your tree from a lot? If cutting fresh, the more the merrier I always say.
As much as possible, prepare foods in advance. When putting this menu together, I chose dishes that could be prepared ahead of time, finished while “trimming” and ready to devour by the glow of twinkling lights. While Uncle Ben’s Spanish rice isn’t nearly as tasty as my Authentic Spicy Spanish Rice, the fact that it cooks up in 90 seconds in the microwave makes it the most convenient side for the delicious Cheese Enchiladas. Of course, you could always make Spanish Rice from scratch the day before and warm it in the microwave instead of using an “instant” rice. The dessert can be made the day before, the Enchiladas assembled in the morning, then finished off with some sauce and popped into the oven to bake. While the Enchiladas are baking, it’s just a matter of whipping up a simple green-leaf salad with bright red cherry tomatoes. Using a white wine Vinaigrette will preserve the red and green colors of the salad.
Don’t forget a parting “gift” for your tree-trimming crew. Send them home with a thank-you ornament for their tree. Pick ornaments that can be personalized and dated. If you are “crafty”, make your own – the internet is a great source for crafting idea.
***** The Recipes *****
Caramel Custard Flan
Ingredients – Custard Flan
20 Egg Yolks
1 Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
2 Large Cans Evaporated Milk
1 Cup Half & Half
Ingredients – Caramel Sauce
1 Cup Sugar
Ingredients – Meringue Topping
4 Egg Whites
½ Cup Sugar
½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar
Green Sugar Crystals
Red Sugar Crystals
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat Egg yolks slightly with a fork in a medium size bowl. Add vanilla and sugar, set aside.
Scald evaporated milk and half & half in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Pour in egg mixture. Mix slowly while stirring constantly. Once mixed; remove from heat and set aside. Should only remain on heat for about 1 ½ minutes – DO NOT allow eggs to cook.
Melt 1 cup of sugar over medium-high heat while stirring constantly to prevent sugar from burning. Continue to cook until all the sugar has melted and is a nice golden-amber color. Pour caramel sauce into the bottom of a large baking tin. (For best results, use a tin canned ham container.) Allow sugar to cool slightly before proceeding.
Strain and CAREFULLY ladle about ½ of the custard into baking pan. Then strain and slowly pour in reaming mixture.
Cover with foil and bake in a bath for 30 minutes.
Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes or until firmly set and done in the middle.
Let custard cool in the pan for 1 hour.
Invert onto oven-proof serving dish. Pour any remaining caramel from pan onto custard.
Beat together ingredients for meringue topping with an electric mixer until firm peaks form.
Top custard with meringue and lightly brown under broiler. Sprinkle with colored sugar. Allow to cool slightly, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Red & Green Cheese Enchiladas
2 Cups Queso Fresco (Mexican Cheese), crumbled
4 Cups Shredded Mexican Cheese Blend, divided
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Stocks Celery, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning
1 Large or 2 Small Cans Commercial Enchilada Sauce, Red
1 Large or 2 Small Cans Commercial Enchilada Sauce, Green
24 Corn Tortillas
2 Green Onions, chopped
2 Roasted Red Pepper from a jar, chopped
In a casserole dish large enough to accommodate 12 Enchiladas, pour ¼ cup Green Enchilada sauce down one side of the dish, ¼ Red Enchilada sauce down the opposite side. Using the back of a spoon, spread sauces evenly, meeting but not merging in the middle. Repeat process with a second casserole dish. Set aside until ready to fill.
Mix 2 cups Queso Fresco cheese with 4 cups shredded Mexican Cheese blend. Divide cheese mixture between 2 resealable bags. To one bag add a little Green Enchilada sauce, just enough to moisten cheese and lend a hint of color. Shake to blend well. Repeat with remaining bag of cheese, using Red Enchilada sauce. Empty contents into two bowls, set aside until ready to use.
In a small saucepan, sauté onions and celery with a little olive oil until celery is pale and vegetables are tender. Season with taco seasoning, stir to blend. Set aside and let cool, about 5-10 minutes.
Divide the sautéed celery-onion mixture between the bowls of cheese. Toss to combine and set aside.
Lightly brush Green Enchilada sauce on both sides of a tortilla. Set tortilla on a plate and repeat until 12 tortillas have been brushed. Repeat with remaining 12 tortilla shells, using Red Enchilada sauce.
Heat a flat griddle over medium heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Alternating between stacks of tortilla shells, gently warm a tortilla shell until pliable. Place warmed shell on a flat work surface. Form a small “log” of cheese down the center of the shell, squeezing gently with hands to help cheese hold its shape. (Keep Green Enchilada cheese mixture with Green Enchilada brushed tortilla or mix green with red, which ever is desired). Tightly roll tortilla around cheese, and place; seam-side-down, in prepared casserole dishes. (Each Enchilada will rest in both green and red sauce).
Repeat with remaining cheese and shells, until both casserole dishes are filled. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Store remaining Enchilada Sauce in containers and set aside until baking time.
Remove Enchiladas 30 minutes before baking to take the “chill” off the casserole dishes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425-degrees.
Uncover the Enchiladas. Pour the remaining green sauce down one side of the Enchiladas, and red sauce on the opposite side. Using the back of a spoon, spread sauce evenly, meeting but not merging in the middle. Cover each dish with foil. Place in the oven and bake until heated through and bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.
Remove Enchiladas from oven. Dollop sour cream down the middle of each dish, garnish with green onions and red peppers.
Green Toss Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
1 Head Green Leaf Lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar
Kosher salt & White Pepper to taste
Place vegetable oil and wine vinegar into a blender. Blend for 10 seconds or until well incorporated. Pour into a glass bowl and let sit for 30 minutes for flavors to merge. Refrigerate to chill. Whisk briskly before using.
Toss lettuce and tomatoes together in a large bowl. Pour a little dressing over salad, toss to coat.
Serve with remaining dressing on the side.
Uncle Ben’s Quick Spanish Rice
2 Packages Uncle Ben’s Spanish Rice
1 Green Onion, green parts only, finely chopped
Uncle Ben’s Rice – Vent packages according to directions. Microwave 1 package at a time for 90 seconds. Place in serving bowl, garnish with green onions and serve immediately.