Ken and I rang in the new year with a progressive dinner with a few close friends. We all live within Madison, Indiana’s National Landmark Historic District, and for the most part, within easy walking distance of each other… if rain (and my awesome hot pink suede shoes) hadn’t been a factor.

Our group included “frequently vegan, definitely beef free” and “always gluten free” preferences, and we pulled together a delicious and creative dining experience for all. (Those with diabetes took the day off!) Most stops included more than one food selection, but I’ve chosen one recipe per course to feature.

Appetizers at Heidi’s
FEATURED RECIPE: Vegetable Spring Rolls

It was a treat for all of us to gather at Heidi’s newly renovated home for her first soirée in her new digs. She chose her recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s Vegan at Times cookbook. The spring rolls featured crisp julienned vegetables rolled in rice paper wrappers, and she served them with two dipping sauces – a peanut sauce and a sweet chili sauce. Not only beautiful but delicious!

Kite Hill’s Soft Spreadable Cheese (Garlic & Herb), an assortment of artisan crackers, and another delicious Seinfeld recipe for Mushroom Toasts rounded out Heidi’s table of tasty.

To accompany the appetizer fare, Heidi served one of her favorite wines, a 2018 Brut Zinfandel sparkling wine from Picchetti Winery. Perfect choice!

Soup & Salad at Julie & Larry’s
FEATURED RECIPE: Shrimp Corn Chowder

We were all pumped to see Julie & Larry’s totally reconfigured new gourmet kitchen and their collections of charming Christmas decorations. They did not disappoint!

Julie was inspired by Erin Clarke’s Shrimp Corn Chowder recipe that she found on Pinterest. Desiring a little less creamy base, she substituted chicken broth for half of the milk. She also used Old Bay Seasoning as a replacement for cayenne pepper and opted for baby sized shrimp. Accompaniments were warm dinner rolls and herb butter, and a mixed greens salad with bleu cheese, craisins, walnuts, perfectly ripe sliced Harry & David pears and apple cider vinaigrette. We loved it all!

Julie & Larry chose a New Zealand wine, Yealands Sauvignon Blanc. Wonderfully crisp and dry, it was a great voice for both the soup and the salad.

Main Course at Hilary & Joe’s
FEATURED RECIPE: Seared Scallops and Potato Celery Root Purée

Let me just say that Hilary always sets a fabulous table, and this time was no exception. A striking floral centerpiece of white amaryllis and her Aunt Carolyn’s black and white Wedgewood china were beautiful on the Christmas red tablecloth. Gorgeous.

Hilary and Joe looked to Ina Garten’s Seared Scallops & Celery Root Purée recipe for their inspiration. The scallops were tender and beautifully caramelized. The potato celery root purée was a new side dish for all of us, and we were so pleased with its light & smooth texture and delicate taste. Roasted asparagus and hot dinner rolls completed the celebratory meal.

The wine Joe selected to complement the meal was a French white burgundy, Saint-Aubin La Chassnois 1er Cru 2015. OMG delicious!

Dessert & New Year’s Toast at Our House
FEATURED RECIPE: Bombe aux Trois Chocolats

Ken & I went back to a 1979 cookbook, Julia Child & More Company, for one of our all time favorite desserts. It’s the richest and most decadent dessert we make. The Bombe aux Trois Chocolats is a brownie-like cake mounded and surrounding a chocolate mousse center and topped with chocolate and chopped nuts.

I’ve included pages from the book with the original recipes for the brownie cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate topping, and the instructions for assembling, if you’d like to try it Julia’s way. Ken and I have made adaptations over the years, however, and highly recommended our shorter version!

For the brownie, we typically use a box of Ghiradelli’s Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix prepared and baked in a thin layer in a parchment lined jelly roll pan. This time we used a King Arthur Gluten Free Brownie Mix, baked it 20 minutes, and it worked perfectly. We lined a prepared round bottom bowl with wedge-shaped brownie pieces as described in Julia’s instructions.

We use a Chocolate Mousse recipe from a French Cooking Class Ken took in the 1970s to fill the bombe mold. It’s straightforward and simple – and always delicious. (He uses orange liqueur in the bombe, but crème de menthe is jotted down as an option for other uses.) Fill the mold and top with a circle of the brownie. Chill overnight. Unmold onto serving platter.

To top the bombe, I make a half recipe variation of chocolate ganache from Sarabeth’s Bakery cookbook. Bring 2/3 cup heavy cream to a simmer in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add 6 ounces semisweet chocolate. Let stand for three minutes, then whisk until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped butter, whisking until it has totally melted into the chocolate. Cool on a wire rack until the ganache thickens slightly to a pourable consistency. Slowly pour onto the top of the assembled bombe, topping with 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Chill for several hours before serving. To serve, slice and top with sweetened whipped heavy cream.

We served the bombe with coffee, then finished our progressive dinner with a glass of Veuve Cliquot Brut champagne to toast the New Year!

A Special Thank You

We had a special addition to the appetizer course with a gift of a Lazy Lady Farm La Petite Tomme goat cheese from our friend Michele. We loved that she shared one of her Christmas gift cheeses from her sister, Laini Fondiller, proprietress and cheese maker for Vermont’s Lazy Lady Farm. Laini was recently named one of “The Top 50 U.S. Cheesemakers” – and her La Petite Tomme was delicious! Thanks, Michele!

We had a fabulous evening with our friends, and we all agreed it was a five star experience from beginning to end. I’m hoping this will set the tone for 2022! And on that note, we wish you a healthy and happy New Year. Bon Appetite!

Written by


One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.