That Time of Year

There’s no denying that the Christmas season is one of the best – if not the best – time of the year. Christmas carols, The Nutcracker, decorating the tree. Something about this season just feels magical. Although my Santa days are sadly long gone, these traditions help bring back those feelings of excitement and anticipation that seemed to last an eternity as a kid. Just because I’m at the age where Santacon is more appropriate than sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall, doesn’t mean I can’t still indulge myself in other kid-friendly Christmas activities. 

Now in its second year, my friends’ gingerbread house making/Love Actually viewing party was even better than the first: more friends, more food, and even some blood! (Wouldn’t be a gingerbread house party without someone cutting themselves opening a tube of frosting, right Steph?) As fun as gingerbread decorating is, it can also be a little frustrating. The walls fall down, gumdrops slide off the roof, and Frosty just refuses to stand upright! Thankfully we had some delicious mulled wine and treats to take the edge off. In addition to some deliciously festive eggnog cheesecake bites and super decadent chocolate chip loaf with caramel drizzle, I contributed something a bit more savory: stuffed mushrooms. For some unexplainable reason, I had a strong urge to make stuffed mushrooms. They’ve never been a tradition at my family Christmases (Ga-ga actually has a very strong aversion to mushrooms), but something about them just seems fun and festive to me – maybe because they’re like little presents filled with yummy surprises? Anyways, it was a wonderful little fete filled with wine and Colin Firth-ogling. You can never be too old for Christmas; you just find ways to make your favorite traditions as a kid a little more grown up. 

Stuffed Mushrooms (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about 24 with leftover stuffing which I used as a pasta sauce and with stuffed chicken – see pictures below!

Ingredients:

8 bacon slices

1 cup chopped onion (about 1 small-medium onion)

1 10-oz package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper

3 packages white button mushrooms, stems removed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Coarsely chop bacon. Reserve bacon fat in the pan.

2. Heat 2 tsp reserved bacon fat in skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until tender. Transfer to medium bowl and cool. Mix in bacon, spinach, feta, cream cheese and crushed red pepper. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper. 

3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss mushrooms with remaining bacon fat in a large bowl to coat. Sprinkle mushrooms with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms, rounded side down, in single layer on the baking sheet. Bake mushrooms until centers fill with liquid, about 25 minutes. Turn mushrooms over. Bake mushrooms until liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes more. 

4. Spoon 1 heaping tsp filling into each mushroom cavity. Bake mushrooms at 375 degrees until heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve warm. 

Leftover stuffed mushroom filling makes a great creamy pasta sauce!
Or a savory filling for stuffed chicken breasts! 
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