Spinach-Artichoke Fondue & Other Meals


For New Year’s Eve we kept with tradition and had fondue for two at home in the living room while watching a movie leading up to the ball drop. This year’s movie was Secret Life of Pets and this year’s fondue was Spinach-Artichoke. The movie was enjoyable but the fondue was far superior.


Spinach-Artichoke Fondue

8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
4 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1 c white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch nutmeg
2.5 oz baby spinach, chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Mix shredded cheeses with flour and set aside.

Heat white wine to a simmer then add cheese mixture by handfuls, stirring constantly for each addition to melt and incorporate.

Stir in mustard, nutmeg, spinach, artichoke hearts, mayo, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If the fondue is too stiff, you can thin with additional wine and/or mayonnaise, depending on your preference.

Keep warm and melty in a fondue pot and serve with bread cubes, vegetables, and anything else you feel like.

We had a mix of high and low and the gluten-free corn dogs were surprisingly good dipped into the spinach-artichoke fondue.

What did the rest of the week look like?


On Christmas we set up a large grazing station since it was just the two of us and we planned to laze around the house pretty much all day. The mixture of charcuterie, cheese, cookies, fruit, and bread was great all day, and we heated up some pirogi towards the end of the evening to add something new to the spread.


While it was tempting to nosh on what was left of the grazing board the next day, too, I dragged myself into the kitchen to prepare pork chops, green beans, and Bacon-Cheddar Hasselback Potatoes. The potatoes were delicious, but massive by the time the were filled, so don’t feel the need to hunt down the really big baking potatoes for this recipe. One other tip: par-cook the potatoes in the microwave (again, I love that ours has a potato setting that really does make perfectly fluffy baked potatoes) and finish them in the oven. This way I could cook the pork chops and potatoes on the same pan without worrying that one would be overdone before the other was cooked through (the fact that I used the same pan that I’d just cooked the bacon on and, therefore, cooked everything in the reserved bacon grease certainly did not hurt).


Tuesday was another sheet-pan meal (I really do love the simplicity of them): Maple-Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts. I realized only too late that I’d put potatoes two meals in a row, but this is what happens when you rush the menu so you can do your shopping on Christmas Eve because Christmas fell on your usual grocery-shopping day. It is what it is, or was, and the red potatoes were different enough from the previous nights that it didn’t feel at all redundant.


Wednesday I was just about to add the water to the rice cooker when, as I was talking to Todd about our days, I realized I’d rather go buy sushi than make the sushi bowls I’d planned. So we did, and I made the sushi bowls and crab rangoon on Thursday night, instead. Yes, we had sushi-related dinners two nights in a row. No, neither of us minded. I’d eat sushi practically every day if I could.


Friday morning we had to take Todd’s car into the shop and decided to be nice and bring doughnuts from Nanee’s Donut Hole into our respective offices since we had to pass right by on our way across town. I made the mistake of snacking on a piece of leftover apple fritter (yes, High-FODMAP indulgence all the way around, but so worth it) so that I wasn’t very hungry for the Thai Turkey Meatballs in Lemongrass Coconut Sauce that I’d made for supper, but Todd tells me they were very good. I guess I’ll confirm when I have them for lunch tomorrow!


And with Sunday being New Year’s Day, we had to have our traditional cabbage and black-eyed peas for wealth and health in the upcoming year. I’d usually pick up a small ham to go with, but decided to defrost the reserved pork leg from Todd’s birthday luau to go with the vegetables. It was still perfectly tender and delicious as it had been in March.


Fondue for Two at Home


Happy New Year! How did you choose to ring in the new year?

We like to avoid crowds and reckless drivers by celebrating at home and, for the last few years or so, we’ve whipped up a tasty fondue at home as a way to make dinner a little more special.

Our New Year's Eve Feast!

Our New Year’s Eve Feast!

The above picture was pretty popular on my Facebook feed that night, so I thought I’d spill the beans (or cheese, at it was) on just how simple it is to put something like this together. It looks impressive, and tastes divine, but it’s not a lot of work.

First, you need a fondue pot. You can find various types at thrift stores and yard sales, or you can pick up a new one. You can get an electric one or one that uses fuel (like Sterno) or a candle. The one we have was a gift from my mom years ago and it’s the latter type. Intended for chocolate, it calls for a small Sterno can but I can never find the right size. Never underestimate the heating power of a tea light, though–it’s always done a great job of keeping the cheese or chocolate nice and fluid. (For a broth-style fondue, where you’re actually cooking your add-ins, I do bring out the Sterno, even if it doesn’t fit the holder quite right.) You can also use a small slow-cooker for cheese or chocolate fondue. As long as it keeps it hot, you’re golden!

Next, you need a quick and easy fondue recipe. This year’s came from The Fondue Bible (I reviewed it back in 2014) and is super simple.

Bacon Cheese Fondue

adapted from The Fondue Bible, Ilana Simon

6 slices bacon
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
4 oz old Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard

Fry (or bake, our preferred method) the bacon until crisp, allow to cool, then crumble. Grate your cheeses and mix with the nutmeg and dry mustard. Do these steps ahead to make night-of preparation easier.

Heat yogurt over low heat until warm. Add handfuls of the grated cheese and stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Once all the cheese in in, add the rest of your ingredients, seasoning to taste.

We found this to be a little thick so stirred in a bit of milk (maybe 1/4 cup in total).

Of course, the last think you’ll do is put the fondue together. Save that for last, and start laying out your trays of nibbles.

A cheese fondue is not meant to cook anything, so your dippers need to be okay eaten raw or already cooked. On the cold tray I assembled:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Radishes
  • Baby carrots
  • Grapes

Not all of these go into the cheese (though you might be surprised at the different combos you can make), but it’s nice to have some cool palate cleansers set out. Apples and pears are not something I eat very much of (since they’re high FODMAP), but we had both in the house so I decided to indulge. The apples were already sliced and bagged, but the pears came in a Harry & David gift box so needed to be sliced and dunked in a little lemon water to keep them from browning too fast on the tray. I split the carrots and radishes in half for better portion control. The strawberries were small, so I just removed the stems. Very simple and quick.

On the cooked tray I did a mix of hot and cold:

  • Capicola
  • Salami
  • Prosciutto
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Chicken Sausage

The salami, capicola, and prosciutto came in a three-pack from Trader Joe’s; the first two already in a pretty little fall so all you have to do is set it out on a wooden cutting board. The proscuitto had deli paper interleaved and it was easier to crinkle it up in a corner than try to straighten out the slices. Work with what you’ve got. The smoked salmon was sliced thick, so I broke it up for the other corner. Presentation is all about balance. The chicken sausage was fully cooked, but I warmed it up in the microwave while arranging the rest of the tray.

Then there’s the bread. A good cheese fondue just begs for fresh bread, so either pick up a baguette from the bakery or, if you’re shopping far in advance, head to the freezer aisle for a load that can go in the oven while you’re laying out your trays. I found a gluten-free loaf that only needed to come to room temperature, didn’t even need baking, and it was fabulous!

I also added some frozen spinach-artichoke dip from Trader Joe’s that was microwavable–all I did was put it into a pretty dish. It was a last-minute add to the table but we certainly enjoyed it.

Fondue for Two

I hope you’ll consider fondue for your next special night in. It’s great for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or any given date night.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Fondue

Everyday Adventures

We have a habit of staying in on New Year’s Eve and our “tradition,” loose use of the word as it is, is to watch a movie, flip over to see the ball drop, clink Champagne glasses, kiss, and go back to the movie. Dinner is up to whomever is cooking, but it’s usually something that lends itself to being eaten on the sofa while watching said movie. This year we decided on a variety of nibbles and the ooey-gooey goodness of cheese fondue.

Fondue is not complicated. It’s shredded cheese (often one or more of the Swiss varieties), a little wine or beer (or broth if you so choose), and a touch of mustard or garlic. And if kept adequately hot it remains nice and smooth and dip-able. Some fondue pots are electric but ours is of the sterno/candle variety–seriously, never underestimate the power of a tea light!–and we were missing one crucial piece of the puzzle.

A match.

Or lighter or any other fire-starter you can think of. We searched high, we searched low. We searched junk drawers, offices, the butler’s pantry, the bar. And despite knowing for a fact that we owned at least 2 boxes of matches and one long-arm lighter, none could be found. The only thing we could locate was a box of strike-on-box fat lighter sticks, but that seemed like overkill, so Todd did the logical thing and went to the store 4 hours til midnight.

Dinner is served... and saved!

Dinner is served… and saved!

Our movie was From Time to Time, with Maggie Smith, and old drafty manor house, and a family secret that needed to be solved pronto, all set in the last days of WWII. That’s pretty much our movie preference tied up in a bow, though it’s in stark contrast to the numerous episodes of Criminal Minds we mainlined on Christmas day.

I’ve put in a request to add more 2-player board games to our stash so we can switch up our routines a bit.

* * *

This weekend was super-productive and I’m starting of this week with a very Seize the Day attitude. It was a mix of fun, work, and future work and I’ll walk into work for the second time in as many weeks with a clear desk.

Today I’ve got a post up over on Love My Fabrics about my favorite sewing technique: French seams. We (the creative team) are still anxiously awaiting our fabric to arrive, but it’s not stopping us from posting. (I also wrote a post last month on organizing my fabric stash.) Speaking of my posts elsewhere, I created a couple different types of ornaments for my December Gauche and Helmar projects. The Gauche site is currently in transition, but you can find out about my Victorian Lady ornaments on the Helmar blog.

My Gauche-inspired Vintage Christmas ornament.

My Gauche-inspired Vintage Christmas ornament.

I had big plans for decorating the Dollhouse for Christmas. We got, um, maybe 50% there? The exterior got garland, lights, and wreaths, but the inside only managed to decorate 2 of 4 planned trees and the hallway entry. Oh, well, it gives us something to shoot for next year!

The library hosted our "fussy" Victorian-style tree with lots of handmade glittery paper ornaments and bits of bling.

The library hosted our “fussy” Victorian-style tree with lots of handmade glittery paper ornaments and bits of bling.

And we avoided rearranging the living room by sticking to our small table-top tree with the fun, colorful, mismatched ornaments on it.

And we avoided rearranging the living room by sticking to our small table-top tree with the fun, colorful, mismatched ornaments on it.

The big tree was on the upstairs landing but it never got more than lights on it. Which was good since that’s what shone through the upstairs center window.

What you can't see are the wreaths in the upstairs windows with the room lights off. We did finally procure electric candles but never got around to setting them up. Next year!

What you can’t see are the wreaths in the upstairs windows with the room lights off. We did finally procure electric candles but never got around to setting them up. Next year!

It’s not a full-on blogger house tour, but I wanted to at least get these pictures up before the decorations all come down on the 6th–just made it!

Tuesday Reviews-Day: The Fondue Bible

Tuesday Revews-Day


Whether for Girl’s Night Out, birthday, anniversary or New Year’s Eve, there’s nothing that carries the same feel of anticipation than heading to the local fondue restaurant for a several-hour dinner. Fondue is the ultimate communal meal–instead of everyone concentrating on their own plates, there’s a mutual point of interest about what’s in the pot, and the waiting for each item to cook (or cool down enough to bite into) invites both conversation and relaxation.

Back in the 60s, the fondue set became a standby of housewarming and wedding gifts, and with many people fascinated with kitsch and mid-century throw-backs, I think the fondue pot is making a comeback for home use. I received one a few years ago as a Christmas present, but admit that it hasn’t seen the heat of a flame very often and spends more time in it’s box that on the table.

Getting the chance to review The Fondue Bible, though, gave me the chance to dust off the fondue set and give it a place of prominence on the table for a couple of gatherings and a relaxed mid-week supper.


Because it lends itself so well to party grazing, I started off with a cheese fondue for one of our local game nights. The Edam Tarragon Fondue (p. 32) was a nice combination of the more traditional cheeses with the almost sweet tarragon, especially with the grainy mustard added. It went excellent with sausage puffs, chicken breasts, apples and carrots. As for the leftovers, those were fabulous as an impromptu quesadilla filling when melted inside of tortillas.


Another night we went for the sweet with a cocktail-inspired B-52 Chocolate Fondue (p. 198). In addition to the dark chocolate, Kahlua, Cointreau, and Irish Cream I used coconut milk thinned with a bit of lactose-free 2% in place of the heavy cream and it worked fabulously. Into this we dipped strawberries, fresh-cut pineapple chunks, and cubes of homemade (gluten free) pound cake. Some of our guests also went for the salty-sweet combo by dipping rice crackers and salty popcorn into the gooey chocolate.

With my current fondue pot I usually use sterno-style gel fuel but it tends to get way too hot for cheese and chocolate fondues. Behold, the power of the humble tea light as this is plenty to keep a couple cups of melted cheese of chocolate liquid enough for dipping without risking scorching the whole pot (the center does tend to get a little stuck, but at least that’s easy to clean up).


The gel fuel worked wonderfully for the Quick Asian Hot Pot (p. 138), though, doing an excellent job of keeping the broth (I made lamb broth since I had some lamb ribs on hand from a different meal) steaming hot for the duration of our dinner. While it looks like a lot of work, there really wasn’t much more to it than the prep for any stew or soup–the bits and pieces were just laid out prettily on a platter instead of tossed into the soup pot. And the remaining portions were tossed together on the stove to prepare soup for lunch the next day.

We didn’t dip into the oil fondues–that many forks in boiling oil makes me a little nervous, truth be told–but maybe I’ll get braver as they do look just as delectable as the book’s other options. The Fondue Bible includes 200 recipes, loads of gorgeous photographs, and plenty of pairing ideas as well as dips and sauces that could easily go with any other meal, not just your fondue fest. I have a feeling my fondue set is going to be getting much more use, now, with so much inspiration at hand!

The Melting Pot


Though a fairly popular chain of restaurants now, the first Melting Pot opened in 1975 in Maitland, Florida, with the first franchise following in Tallahassee, four years later. Since that time they’ve spread across the Unites States and will be crossing the US-Canada border in 2010 with 2 locations already in the works. If you haven’t tried out your local fondue hot-spot, maybe now would be a good time to give it a whirl?

Reservations are highly recommended, but not required. We’ve done it both ways and the wait’s not usually too long but we’ve also opted to eat in the bar area (aside from cozier booths, it’s really no different than being in the main restaurant. Keep in mind, though, dinner is a several-hour affair so plan accordingly.

The basic order of a full meal at the Melting Pot goes like this: you choose the type of cheese fondue you want from half a dozen choices which is then mixed in front of you. With the cheesy goodness comes assorted cubes of bread, raw veggies and apple slices which you then dip into the cheese and nibble on while enjoying the company of your dinner companion(s) and maybe sampling something from the bar. They’ll bring you more dippers if you run out or have a particular favorite.

The salad course is optional, but it’s also quite tasty and you really don’t have to worry about filling up on it because the length of dinner allows you to graze without over-filling yourself. When Todd and I were there, the waiter actually had an issue with our cheese mix–turns out the water level of the pot had dropped too low and wasn’t producing enough steam to melt everything together–so the salad course helped bide our time until the second chance at the cheese fondue had a chance to melt.

You can order your main course a la carte, with options for single meats or combinations, shared dinners for 2 or a larger “Big Night Out” feast. We like the latter because you tend to get a little bit of everything but there’s usually 3 different options even within that range. Your cooking style options include a number of flavored broths or oil. Our favorite part of dinner on our first visit was the Butternut Squash ravioli but, unfortunately, it’s a seasonal entree only and we’re currently not in season. But nothing is really bad here. The meats come out arranged nicely on a platter, cut in bite-sized chunks to promote quick, even cooking and your meal is totally guided by your own pace. Several sauces are served with the main course and a separate place, with wells for each sauce, are provided for the cooked meats and veggies.

Dessert is where they really shine, though. I mean, who can resist chocolate fondue!? Again, there are several mixes to choose from and some even feature a bit of flambe action. The dessert place is really something to see with cubes (as well as a separate slice) of cheesecake, fresh strawberries and bananas, different types of marshmallows, brownies and rice crispy-treat cubes that are great on their own or liberally slathered in chocolate. Many people I know have stopped in after a night out just for the dessert fondue and nothing else.

Now, I won’t lie, dinner here isn’t exactly cheap: a full meal for 2, with all the courses, is routinely $100 or more, especially if you add in cocktails or after-dinner drinks. But the experience is certainly worth the splurge. And, ladies, check your local Melting Pot for details, but on the last Wednesday of each month, a ladies-only table gets you a 3-course fondue dinner for $28 a person and THAT is a steal.