Danielle Walker’s Celebration Guide
Danielle Walker of Against All Grain takes on a year of entertaining with her new cookbook, Celebrations.
Danielle Walker, New York Times best-selling cookbook author, loves a party. This time of year, she’s crafting gingerbread houses and ladling peppermint cocoa to re-create her family’s favorite Christmas traditions. But the fun doesn’t stop there. All year round, you’ll find her in the kitchen, making special meals to create treasured memories for each holiday on the calendar.
In her new book, Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Celebrations, Walker provides recipes and tips for a year’s worth of celebrations, from New Year’s Eve and Easter, to Father’s Day and the Fourth of July, to Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas.
Walker’s recipes are gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and paleo modifications (with many nut-free options) of family recipes, but many of these dishes—such as salads and roasts—are traditional holiday recipes. Her book offers delicious foods that suit every taste, no matter what your—or your guests’—diet calls for.
Walker talked to Diablo about her favorite holidays and how she folds her healthy diet into traditional family celebrations.
Q: The Christmas section of your new book, Celebrations, is the longest chapter, with mouthwatering photos and ideas for breakfast, dinner, and treats. Is Christmas your favorite holiday?
A: You’ve got me! I’m the girl who plays Christmas music in October. It’s the season for getting together with good friends and family over delicious things to eat. I have so many great memories of cooking and baking over the holidays. We are a serious Christmas family.
Q: What will you serve for Christmas this year?
A: If this year is like the last few, we’ll host Christmas morning. I think Christmas morning is such a special time with kids. I’ll make the cinnamon rolls, for sure. They’ve always been such a big tradition in my family. The recipe is in the new book.
I’ll make mimosas, too, and my eggnog so people can splash it in their morning coffee. I’ll also serve the sausage casserole. It’s delicious and easy to make ahead. And I’ll ask someone to bring a fruit salad because it’s so important to make guests feel involved in the celebration.
Q: What are some of your other favorite holidays, and what special ways do you celebrate them?
A: I love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday all about food. And who doesn’t love the leftovers? New Year’s Eve is really fun and sparkly, too, with lots of yummy small bites and cocktails. My brother, Joel, created NYE 75, a really special New Year’s Eve cocktail based on a French 75, using apple brandy instead of simple syrup. It’s so good.
After all the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s is past, I really look forward to Valentine’s Day. It was always a special day for me growing up. My mom would make an egg-in-a-hole with the toast cutout shaped like a heart. My son Asher loves the beet-and-berry smoothie that I make for him. It’s such a beautiful color, and it tastes amazing.
Q: Your recipes are not only delicious, they’re beautiful, too. What’s your secret to making it all look so appealing?
A: Food tastes even better if it’s colorful and presented beautifully. I love people. And I love to cook wonderful things for all of us to eat when we get together. When I create a dish, I always think about what it will look like as well as how it will taste.
Q: What’s fantastic is that even people without dietary restrictions find that your recipes taste great. How do you do it?
A: It’s amazing what’s possible. Coconut flour and arrowroot powder are great replacements for wheat flour. Cashew nuts puree into a creamy, rich paste that looks and, with the right seasonings, tastes a lot like cheese. Using ghee instead of butter adds simple flavor [and is 99.9 percent lactose-free]. I discovered all these tricks through lots of recipe testing.
Q: In Celebrations, you’ve included so many great kid-friendly Christmas recipes and baking ideas, everything from thumbprint cookies to gingerbread houses. You’ve even got recipes for making your own marshmallows and peppermint hot cocoa. Did you include kid-friendly recipes on purpose?
A: I was a simple eater—a nice way to say picky—growing up. I did not like my foods touching on the plate. So, I get it. I try to make dishes that the kiddos will like. I have very strong memories of our family food traditions, and I wanted my boys to grow up with those same wonderful memories. And I wanted to share those feelings with my readers, so I had to bring them to life in a way I hope everyone will enjoy. againstallgrain.com, celebrationscookbook.com.
Danielle’s Tips for Flawless Celebrations
1. Decorate the house, and organize your serving ware before the day of the party.
2. Shop early. You’ll be more relaxed if you’re not doing it all at the last minute.
3. Prepare as much of the food as you can in advance. Every recipe in Celebrations has a tip on how to make it ahead of time.
4. Ask for help from family and friends. People like to bring side dishes.
5. Have fun! If you are having a good time, your guests will, too.
Persimmon Prosciutto Salad • Serves 10
• 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into ribbons
• 4 bunches watercress, thick stems trimmed
• 3 Fuyu persimmons, thinly sliced
• ½ cup pomegranate seeds
• ½ cup roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1⁄3 cup pure pomegranate juice
• 1⁄3 cup white wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons light-colored raw honey
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Divide the prosciutto, watercress, persimmons, pomegranate seeds, and roasted pepitas among 10 plates, or place all of the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss to combine.
To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, pomegranate juice, vinegar, honey, and mustard and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of dressing over each salad, or add ½ cup of dressing into the salad bowl and serve immediately with extra dressing on the side.
Garlic Rosemary Rib Roast • Serves 10
• 1 (7-pound) standing rib roast of beef, fat trimmed and tied with twine
• 10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
• 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
• 6 sprigs rosemary
• 6 tablespoons ghee or extra virgin olive oil
• Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 to 2 cups beef or chicken stock
• 1 yellow onion, diced
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Poke shallow holes with a sharp knife all over the roast and insert the garlic slices into the holes. Rub all over with the arrowroot powder and tuck rosemary sprigs into the twine on the top and bottom of the roast.
Melt 4 tablespoons of the ghee over medium-high heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Sear the roast on all sides, then transfer it to a roasting pan and return the skillet to the stove. Season the roast generously on all sides with salt and pepper and pour in 1 cup of the beef stock. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee to the same skillet. Add the onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, until well browned.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, spoon the sautéed onions over the top of the roast, return the pan to the oven, and continue roasting, basting with the pan juices every 30 minutes, for 1½ to 2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the roast reads about 140°F for medium doneness. If the liquid in the pan nearly evaporates, add the remaining 1 cup stock.
Remove the twine, cover the roast with foil, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before slicing. Set the roast on its side and run a sharp knife between the bones and meat; remove the bones and set them aside. Turn the roast right side up. Carve the roast into slices ¼ to ½ inch thick and arrange on a platter. Spoon the pan juices over the top. Serve immediately.