Many years ago I noticed that those of us who have little-to-no interest in football didn’t have much to do on New Year’s Day. That realization inspired me to invite friends over for an open house, and I’ve been doing it annually ever since. It being my open house, it’s very much centered on food. Sometimes I do an ethnic theme, sometimes an assortment of dishes I’ve enjoyed making during the year, and sometimes my friends are guinea pigs for culinary experimentation. Thirty to forty people drop in to my cozy abode during the afternoon, and it is the only large-scale entertaining I do at home all year. In order not to be stressed, I like to plan the menu a week to ten days ahead, to do the shopping two days ahead, and to do nearly all the prep and cooking a day ahead. I began by using paper and plastic, but I’ve since acquired all the plates, silver, glasses and napkins I need, so nothing gets thrown away. As my friends are an eclectic group, I have vegetarian and vegan dishes, and usually at least one involving fish or fowl. When I’m in the middle of a mountain of prep, I typically wonder if it is worth all the work, but later, seeing so many people I love gathered in my home, I just feel happy. And the warm, energetic afterglow lingers on for hours after the final guest has departed. As for the work, some good friend always steps forward to pitch in. So, to all those who’ve helped, and to all those who’ve attended my open houses, I say a deep “thank you.” Menus for my 2011 and 2010 open houses and a recipe for pumpkin and sesame seed crunch bars appear after the jump…
PUMPKIN AND SESAME SEED CRUNCH BARS
(Yields a 9-inch square pan, 16-20 bars)
3 cups toasted pumpkin seeds
1 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar
tiny pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups brown rice crisps cereal
1 tablespoon Earth Balance, or good quality oil
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
1. Lightly oil a 9-inch square or similar size baking pan
2. Measure 1 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, the flax seeds and the salt and umeboshi vineagar into the bowl of your food processor. Process until you have a coarse meal.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine this meal with the brown rice crisps, and the remaining pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Mix well.
4. Heat the Earth Balance or oil in a small sauce pan until it is hot and bubbly, add the rice syrup and maple syrup and stir together. Heat until this is also hot and bubbly.
5. Pour the hot syrup mixture into the pumpkin seed mixture and stir well until the seed mixture is evenly coated with the syrup mixture.
6. Quickly pour this into your oiled pan. Oil your hands and lightly press into place, so the bars will be even and smooth.
7. Chill before cutting into 16-20 small bars.
Menu–New Year’s Day 2011
Wild Alaskan Steelhead Salmon Salad, with Homemade Mayonnaise
Seitan and Red Potatoes with Shiitake Mushroom Gravy
Roasted Red Kuri Squash
Ginger and Garlic Stir Fried Long Beans
Belgium Endive Stuffed with Cauliflower Salad
Mixed Green Salad
Gingerbread Loaf with Raisins, Cranberries and Apricots and with Vegan Cream Cheese
Pumpkin and Sesame Seed Crunch Bars
Menu–New Year’s Day 2010
Savory Bread Pudding with Roasted Mushrooms and Sun Dried Tomatoes
Roasted Cauliflower “Chicken Salad”
Wild Rice Salad w/ Dried Cranberries, Pecans and Celery
Black-eyed Pea Salad w/ BBQ Seitan and Collards
Glazed Sweet Potato Spears
Mixed Green Salad w/ Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pears
Cheese Board, Bread, Crackers
Cookies: Raspberry Gems, Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Crispy Balls, Pecan Tuiles, Persimmon Bars, Bob’s German Christmas Cookies