Show-stopping Holiday Mains

The holidays are a time for showcasing your best cooking and hospitality. If you’re hosting dinner this year, try one of my special occasion roasts or braises.  Be sure to plan ahead so that your meat counter or butcher has what you need.  The butcher in any grocery store- even Safeway or Fred Meyer, can have these cuts ready for you with a little notice, so don’t feel like you have to go to a fancy specialty butcher shop.  Although if you have time, I really recommend Sheridan Fruit Company’s butcher for the best meat selection in Portland and the most knowledgable staff.  There’s a recipe here for every budget and level of cooking experience.  Except for vegetarians. Then you should click here. 

Crown Roast of Pork

The ultimate holiday centerpiece




Italian-style pork roast, a crowdpleaser



Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

A decadent family favorite



Rotolo Di Manzo

Braised, stuffed beef roulade



Chicken Apricot Tagine

Casual and budget friendly and super delish



Holiday Turkey Roulade

Stuffed and rolled turkey breast, perfect for a smaller group



Classic Prime Rib

The mother of all holiday roasts



Roasted Turkey and Bread Salad

For the traditionalists



Braised Brisket 

Easy and inexpensive










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Oregon Oyster Stuffing

New Season’s has freshly shucked and jarred oysters in their seafood case.



Oyster stuffing, or dressing, originated in New England, some say all the way back to the Colonial period when oysters were extremely plentiful and therefore eaten by rich and poor alike.  They made their way to tables in the Midwest during the 1850’s when refrigerated train cars were first used. Since they had to be transported at great expense, they became more of a delicacy and were reserved for special occasions. In the 1900’s NE oysters went out of fashion due to high levels of pollution in the Atlantic.

Living in the Pacific Northwest has the huge perk of being close to some of the best oyster beds in the world, like Netarts and Yaquina Bay. You don’t need to shuck oysters for this dish.  Buy a jar of freshly shucked oysters at your local fish market, and be sure to reserve the “liquor” from the jar.

The oysters lend…

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Simple Cranberry Orange Sauce

Back in 2012 when I first posted this recipe I wrote, “you’ll never go back to canned.” Now I would say, “This is really easy, but use canned if making your own cranberry sauce will put you over the edge.”



This is so easy and quick.  Once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to canned.

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 t. fresh grated nutmeg

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the cranberries, sugar, and orange juice to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and boil for about ten minutes, or until the berries have broken down and the juice is almost all evaporated.  Remove from the heat and stir in the zest and nutmeg.  Allow to cool a little bit before serving.

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Harvest Moon Pies

Who doesn’t love an ice cream sandwich?  These pumpkin and spice moon pies are the perfect treat for fall.  Thanks to my husband Harley for the catchy title.

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 C. brown sugar
  • 1 C. vegetable oil
  • 2 C. canned pumpkin,
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. maple extract
  • 3 c. flour
  • ice cream for filling (vanilla, pumpkin, butter pecan…)

Beat eggs, brown sugar, and oil until smooth.  Add the pumpkin, spices, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and maple extract.  Add the flour a little bit at a time.  Drop scoops of batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Smooth them out into rounds.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until the tops are set.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Let the ice cream soften for about twenty minutes.  Spread about 1/4 C. of ice cream in between each pumpkin cake.  Wrap in waxed paper and freeze for at least an hour before serving.

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Oven Dried Tomatoes


If you are like me you have way more tomatoes than you can eat this year.  Preserve your cherry tomatoes by drying them in a low oven.  Pack them in olive oil and store them in the fridge practically indefinitely.  Use them in soups, sauces, on salads, in scrambled eggs, over pasta, with grilled veggies…

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Slice all the tomatoes through the center and lay them out on a rimmed baking sheet- it’s okay if they are touching.  Drizzle a little olive oil  over them and sprinkle them generously with salt.

Bake for an hour.  Reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  When the tomatoes are wrinkled and feel dry to the touch they are done.  Allow them to cool a bit and then pack them loosely into glass jars.  Pour…

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Instant Pot Mexican Chicken


I love to get a couple of meals out of one dish.  Cooking a whole chicken in the Instant Pot is a huge timesaver and yields lots of succulent chicken to use for tacos, soup, and salads. This isn’t really a recipe, more of an idea…

  • 1 whole chicken, remove any giblets/liver etc. and rinse with cold water
  • 1 small can El Pato tomato sauce download
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • 2t. garlic powder
  • 1 T. Kosher salt
  • 2 t. chili powder
  • 2 t. oregano- They have Mexican oregano in the produce section of your grocery store
  • 1 C. water

Place the chicken into the Instant Pot. In a bowl, combine all the other ingredients and stir. Pour the tomato-spice mixture over the chicken.  Set the Instant Pot to manual-for 35 minutes. Be sure to close the steam vent. Alternatively you can get the same effect in a slow cooker for 8 or so hours on low. You can vent the steam manually or let it come down on it’s own. Once the lid unlocks, turn off the pot, remove the lid and let it cool down until you can handle it.  Some of the chicken is just going to completely fall off the bone. That’s what you want! Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and the bones to a separate bowl.  The rich, tomatoey broth that’s left behind is called the “pot liquor”. Don’t get rid if it! It’s an amazing base for soup. Strain the pot liquor through a mesh sieve and reserve it in the fridge or freezer. (it will gel when it’s cold and be jiggly, meat-Jell-o, then become liquid again when warmed)


Your hands are the best tool for separating all the chicken from the bones.  Carefully pick over the chicken and put all the meat into a separate container.  You may need to use a fork to shred some of the white meat. The bones are pretty much leached of all their nutrients at this point.  You could use them again to make more broth but it will probably be a mild-tasting one. I like to ladle a few spoonfuls of the pot liquor over the shredded chicken before I store it in the fridge or freezer to keep it from drying out.

Ideas for your shredded chicken:

  • Tacos: like these!  or these! 
  • Use the pot liquor for a base for tortilla soup- think of it as a concentrate and add a cup of water for each cup of liquor. Adobo Corn Soup is a winner! 
  • Chili – add half the chicken and pot liquor to a sauteed onion and three cans of pinto or black beans.  Simmer.  Top with fresh cilantro and sour cream.
  • Corn and chicken chowder- 2 C. pot liquor + 2 C. water + 1 C. half and half, cooked and diced potatoes, 2 C. shredded chicken, and fresh corn sliced off two or three cobs. Heat it through. Top with fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Cold chicken salad- add curry powder, mayo, mustard, red grapes, and almonds, serve over fresh greens. Or this one!
  • Baked chicken pasta like this! 
  • Topping for ramen noodles.
  • Toss with steamed yellow, Mexican rice and peas, throw in a few cooked shrimp, a 1/2 t. of paprika and call it paella!
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Spinach and Beet Green Salad with Broiled Zucchini and Basil Vinaigrette


Salad for dinner.  It’s hot. It’s even too hot to go outside and grill the zucchini. The broiler heats up and cooks quickly so it’s a doable stand in for the grill on a sweltering day. How long has it been since you had grown-up spinach?  For me it’s been a long time, years maybe. I only ever seem to buy baby spinach.  Lately I’ve been buying the bunches of regular, full-grown spinach and I like it a lot more.  It’s more hearty, has more texture, and I think more flavor as well.

  • 1-2 zucchini
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 t. herbes de Provence or dried oregano
  • one bunch of beets, reserve the greens, wash them well, and cut into bite sizes
  • one bunch of fresh spinach, washed and cut or torn
  • A few basil leaves for garnish

For the vinaigrette ( I like to make mine in a smoothie blender)

  • one packed handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/8 C. Balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. champagne or white wine

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Prepare the beets: cut off the greens and set aside. Place the whole, unpeeled, beets in a pot, covered with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.  Test with a sharp knife. Drain the hot water and place the pot in the sink. Fill it with cold water to stop the beets cooking.  This is a great time to peel them- use your hands, the peel slips right off, and if you do it while your hands are submerged then you won’t get too many beet stains on your fingers. Slice the beets into 1/2 inch thick slices, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare the zucchini: Slice the zucchini into 1/2 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet that’s been drizzled with olive oil. Season the rounds with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the dried herbs. Give the whole pan another drizzle of oil and put it under the broiler- about two inches from the heat source. Broil for about two minutes per side, or until the rounds are blistering and turning golden brown.

Assemble the salad: Greens on the plate, I like a few beet stems too for color and crunch, a few zucchini rounds, a few sliced beets, a few basil leaves and a nice drizzle of the vinaigrette.





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