Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Make it a Mediterranean Christmas with Cooking Club friends

We hosted our annual Cooking Club Christmas party on Saturday with a Mediterranean theme. We have 10 couples in our Cooking Club but they never come all on the same night; this year every couple made it and we had an elegant dinner for 21 adults, three babies, one toddler and a dog named Buster. We had a full kitchen of ladies chopping, prepping, cooking and following recipes.
One great addition to the kitchen help this month was my sister-in-law, Michelle. Paul and Michelle drove up from Los Angeles with their dog, Buster, to spend some Christmas with the family. Michelle's a great dessert maker and a wonderful helper to have when you're in a pinch. She took charge of the Italian Ricotta Cheesecake, which uses ricotta cheese instead of the traditional cream cheese. This warm cheesecake was a definite hit. Auntie Michelle also helped out with Meilani. (We can't wait for Meilani's new baby cousin coming in April/May.)

My other right-hand woman in the kitchen is Cori Schmidt. I was happy to have her helping out for this menu. She made a fabulous Zucchini Caprese Salad, which is a colorful stack of zucchini, tomato, basil and mozarella with a balsamic sauce. Another hit of the the party.

The first course of the meal was my family's traditional Christmas Fish Soup. We make this tomato-based soup every year for Christmas Eve. Many Italian families have versions of this soup. We like to use orange roughy fish or sometimes tilapia. The soup is a meal in itself.

Our beautiful spread also included Roast Leg of Lamb with garlic and rosemary, confetti couscous, a layered Mediterranean salad, Spanakopitas, Hummus and pita bread and a Holiday chocolate mint trifle for dessert. This was indeed a feast!

We had so many guests we actually had to take all the furniture out of our front room and stash it in the garage so we could set up tables for everyone. (Pictured here are Jeremy & Corban Pusey, Marcy Pusey, Darrel & Cori Schmidt and Paula Beery - Josh Beery was on the way.)

The guest of honor at our table was Shawn Young, who traveled all the way from Baltimore to hang out and celebrate. We had a "Haiti Reunion" at our table with all the people from our original Haiti team and their spouses plus babies. How cool to reflect on how far God has brought each of us in our lives since 2001 when we all traveled to Haiti together.

Joining us at the third table, is Mary & Antonio Andrade, Paul (my bro) and Michelle Lazo, and Stacie & Forest Benedict. Buster the dog is roaming around somewhere - probably hanging out by the roast lamb or running away from sweet Meilani.

We also had a visit from Santa at our Cooking Club. Santa Caleb Johnson and Mrs. Claus Niana Holman were quite the pair. Our gift exchange got to be very rowdy as we fought over kitchen items. The big steals were a fondue set, a grill basket for vegetables, a snazzy travel kitchen knife and a vegetarian cookbook. Ericlee and I ended up with ice tongs and pie beads for making the perfect pie. No complaints.

The Christmas party went off without a hitch. The food was even done 15 minutes early - much to everyone's surprise. Ericlee and I indulged not only in wonderful food but a great reminder of one of our greatest gift - the support and deep friendships we have here in Fresno. Bon Appetito!


The Growing VM Family said...

I was just watching a show on the Food Network about that Traditional Italian Christmas Fish Soup. I'd never heard of such a thing! Your whole feast sounds wonderful. Hope you had an awesome Christmas!

Anonymous said...

These are such special times with your dear friends (and this time with Paul and Michelle, too)! What a blessing it is for you to open your home to this happy Cooking Club gathering each month. We sometimes get to enjoy the fruits of your labor as well as hear the stories of the days events.
Love you,
Nana and Papa
P.S. Besides all the beautiful people, those special tablecloths sure add to the festive decor, don't they?