Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Big Brother was in kindergarten last year and his teacher commented on how much she liked the home-made cookies and breads I’ve sent for snack time.  I offered to bake heart-shaped cookies for Valentine’s Day and she jumped at the chance.  She explained that they should be plain so the students can add frosting and decorations during the class party.  No problem!

I chose a recipe from one of my recent additions to the kitchen library.  This was a previously untested recipe so I was risking complete failure by doing this and not sticking to my recipe for Christmas cutouts.  I held my breath and went ahead.

The recipe only made about a dozen large hearts and I needed to bake at least 27 cookies for the party. After the first pan was cleared off to the cooling racks Little Sister helped herself to a cookie the size of her head. I heard the faint noise of munching behind me and realized what just happened. I couldn’t get mad. I knew another batch would have to be made to make my quota anyways. Pleading with her, I scooted her out of the kitchen and looked for a distraction in the form of a cute fuzzy animated panda. “Panna!” Little Sister plunked herself on the couch with her cookie. The rest were safe for the next 98 minutes.

Heart Cookies for a Decorating Party

Adapted from Sugar Cookies by Martha Stewart Living Magazine (COOKIES cookbook)

  • original recipe, plus
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (added)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (added)

I chilled the dough for an hour, then rolled it thicker than the recipe calls for.  I put the giant hearts on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and baked until firm but not browned.  This is a great recipe for any shape of cookie to suit the holiday.


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This recipe has been under development for a couple years, this one was pretty close to what I want.  The cream cheese was what I had in the fridge, this should be a mozzarella blend of some kind.  This was already an experiment so the cream cheese went in.

  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 15 oz can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 15 oz can cream of Poblano soup
  • 1 (28 oz) can green beans
  • 1 (30 oz) jar cactus strips
  • french fried onions

350ºF for 45 – 55 minutes until bubbly and onions are browned on top.  Kinda like this:

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The Edmonton Tourist offered up a spot on her blog for me to fill in over the holidays.  I love her blog and was delighted to be her guest.  Here is what I wrote for her in case you missed it, and be sure to visit The Edmonton Tourist!

I must explain that this is not a tale involving Mickey Mouse.  You see, “Disneyland” is the nickname we’ve given to “Grandma’s House”.  This is a large ranch home with pearly white wrought iron fence and gate.  There is a cast of characters who all wear fur: chivas (the goats), Bobcat (the orange tabby), Mitcha (the granny cat), and then a threesome of canines.  The kids always have a blast at the grandparent’s house, even though it’s not even close to being baby-proof.  Grandma and Grandpa spoil the kids with attention, ice cream, and fun playing outside.  There’s a swing set, merry-go-round, stairs (which are very steep and they are not to be played on, Big Brother figured out how to “surf” down the stairs), cookie jars, soda pop, fruit bowls and cartoons.  The 5 hour drive home is predominantly quiet due to the very overdue nap the kids need to recover from over stimulation.

So the stage is set for a string of improvisations.

We arrived two days before Christmas, I was ready to help prepare dinner for our family.  At Thanksgiving, I had toted along a box of my essentials (herbs, spices, notes).  It was not really necessary and I decided to leave my stuff at home as not to insult our hosts.  Ahead of time, I had phoned to find out what the main dish was going to be, turkey, ham, or a roast beef?  Grandma said she would find something and not to worry.  So I didn’t.  That is until I found a pork butt thawing in the sink.  This was not the “worry-free” meal idea I had in mind for a holiday dinner.  Pork butts (or shoulders) are best slowly roasted or smoked after a good brine bath.  There was no time for a brine, there was hardly enough time to thaw the butt out!  I’ll just improvise:  a dry marinade that I loved from Julia Child’s cook book (coincidently the very same one Grandma had given to me for Christmas some years ago).

I start pulling out the ingredients for the rub.  Garlic cloves, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, allspice, garlic press…  Garlic press?  I had half a head of garlic to plow through and could not find a garlic press in the four jam packed drawers of kitchen tools.  I’ll just improvise and finely mince with one of the multitude of dull knives (I couldn’t find the knife sharpener either).

Dessert was next.  An upside-down cranberry-orange cake, this required the zest of the orange.  In all my searching for the garlic press I never noticed a microplane to get a fine zest off the oranges, instead I improvised with a vegetable peeler and chopped the skin strips.  Half way through, Grandma found me and pulled a microplane in two sizes from the exact place I was rummaging minutes earlier.  Why couldn’t she stay in the kitchen with me? Oh, right, the kids were pulling her in all opposite directions from where I needed her. 

The kids needed her watchful eye more than I needed a garlic press, so I let it go in my mind and continued working alone.

In the rush to leave our house, I forgot to grab my camera and the cheese dip mix I had prepared to take with me.  They were perched on top of the fridge next to my recipe notebook I’ve had since 7th grade.

So… I improvised!  One of the dip mixes was an onion dip from Epicure (my step mom sells Epicure in Sherwood Park).  I bought some onion soup mix and used that instead.

By the time dinner was ready, I felt depleted of tricks to get through making dinner in a pinch, Disneyland requires many pinches.  To top the evening off, Big Brother was running around without socks or shoes (not recommended in Disneyland), he was told “Don’t run around with bare feet!”  He paused and retorted “I’m not a bear.  I don’t have bear feet!”  We all laughed aloud, it was the perfect end to an imperfect time in the kitchen.

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Saveur.com has a recipe for Alfajores, a light butter cookie sandwiched with dulce de leche.  I took this recipe and added my own flavours for the holiday season:  orange zest and cardamom.

The cookies are very delicate and crumbly.  They need the sticky layer of dulce de leche just to keep from falling apart.  I’m sure a vanilla icing would also work well to glue these soft cookies together.  Use what you like.

Adapted from Saveur.com

1 2/3 cups cornstarch tapioca powder
1 1/4 cups flour  & 1/2 cup for rolling
1 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. cognac or brandy  3/4 tsp ground cardamom & 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. lemon zest  zest of 1 large orange
4 egg yolks
Canned dulce de leche, for filling cookies (or use a vanilla or cream cheese frosting)

Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, sift together cornstarch, flour, and baking powder; set aside. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together sugar and butter until fluffy. Add cognac and zest; beat. Add yolks one at a time; beat. Add dry ingredients; mix. Transfer dough to a floured surface, knead briefly; divide into 3 pieces. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough to 1/4″ thickness. Using a 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter, cut out cookies; transfer to parchment paper—lined baking sheets, spaced 1″ apart. Roll the scraps and repeat.

Bake until golden, 12–15 minutes. Let cool. Flip half the cookies over; top each with 1 heaping tsp. dulce de leche. Top with remaining cookies.

MAKES 16 cookie sandwiches


Save those egg whites and make a healthy omelette for yourself!

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This was the main course following French Onion Soup.  The two worked well together as a satisfying Sunday supper.  My neighbour happened to stop in because her little ones wanted to play with my little ones.  She gave the soup and pork two thumbs up!  (I’m sure if she had more thumbs they would have been up too)

I don’t know if Julia Child would have served the pork loin on a squeaky bed of green beans, but I thought it worked quite well for presentation.

The pork was marinated in a rub of garlic, thyme, salt and pepper for 24 hours in a plastic bag in the fridge.  I used about twice the amounts called for, I was nervous that the pork would be, well like pork.  No flavor.  Dry.  Pork.  I think the reason my pork chops are always tough and dry as the west of Texas, is due to my over cooking them.  It’s also a factor of cut, the tenderloin (as the name so implies) is tender and moist when handled with care.

Roasting will not take very long, so this is a great meal any night of the week.  Just be mindful of the marinade time.  Roast covered loosely, for 30 – 35 minutes.  Uncover the tenderloin and continue to roast until the internal temperature is 145-150ºF.   Let the meat rest as you prepare the pan gravy.

Place the roasting pan on the stove, if it is safe to use on the stove top otherwise transfer to another pot over medium heat.  Add  1 cup or so of stock and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Dissolve 2 Tbsp of cornstarch in about 3 Tbsp of cool water and stir it in.  Let the gravy bubble for about 30 seconds to activate the starch, then reduce to low for a minute.  The sauce should be fairly thin but holds to the back of a spoon.

As suggested in the photo, serve over a bed of steamed green beans and garnish with fresh chives.

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Bring on the cooler weather, this farm-girl-turned-city-mama is up for it and she has the warm silky soup to prove it.

Begin with a plump organic red kuri squash.  I’ve never seen such an intense orange colour on a vegetable.  I hope the pictures do it justice, this squash was amazing.  Surely there’s a load of vitamins and beta-carotene in there.  I saved the seeds since this was a beautiful specimen, drought tolerant squash which will perhaps like our mild Texas winters.

This soup would be perfect as a soup course for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Red Kuri Soup

Serves 4-6

  • 1 red kuri squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 qt chicken stock + 1 qt water
  • 1 cup milk
  • cayenne pepper
  • thyme
  • garlic powder
  • bacon bits
  • shredded apple (I used half a Gala apple)

You will require a blender or immersion blender stick for this recipe and a large soup pot.

Open the squash and clean out the seeds and strings.  Salt the flesh and place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet.  Trim the red onion and quarter it, place the onion on the baking sheet.  Roast at 350ºF for 40-50 minutes.  Let the veggies cool on the pan so you can handle them.

Roughly chop the onion and add it to a pot containing the stock and water.  Begin to boil the liquids then add the spices, hold off on salt until everything has been added.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Scoop the soft orange flesh into the pot.  Don’t worry if there are large chunks at this point.  Once all the squash is in, blend the soup until it is very smooth.  Careful, it will be hot.  Add the milk and stir.  Taste for salt and adjust.  Keep the soup warm until ready to serve.

Garnish the soup with bacon that is cooked and chopped, as well as freshly grated or finely diced apple.  Share with someone you love 🙂

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I saw this Pumpkin Roll on A Recipe A Day’s blog and saved it to bake when I had some pumpkin available.  Well after baking the inaugural autumn pumpkin pie, I had half a can of spiced pumpkin puree leftover.  What to do?  This was more than I needed to try Nancy’s recipe.

The original recipe calls for plain pumpkin and calls out the spices to add to the batter.  I’ve shortcut this by using pie pumpkin puree and added a little extra pumpkin pie spice.  For the filling, I used a ready made vanilla icing (for some reason I have four containers of this stuff in my pantry!) foregoing the cream cheese and hopefully a few calories from fat (see the note below!).  The result was a delicate rolled cake with a good amount of sweet filling to hold it all together.  If you prefer less sweetness, visit the original recipe post for the cream cheese filling.

Ready To Serve Creamy Vanilla Frosting  (Duncan Hines)Calories: 280   Total Fat: 10g

Per serving:  28 calories and 1 gram of fat

Cream Cheese (Philadelphia)  –  8oz:

Calories: 800   Total Fat: 72g

Confectioners’  Sugar  – 1 cup:

Calories: 389  Total Fat: 0.1g

Butter – 6tbsp:

Calories: 600 Total Fat: 66g


Total Calories of the filling: 1789

Total Fat of the filling: 138.1g

Per serving 179 calories and 13.8 grams of fat

I think the type of pumpkin used makes no difference in the end, there was a soft spicy note to the cake.  If you have an abundance of pumpkins in your garden, roast them up yourself and use that instead of canned pumpkin, I love fresh pumpkin in pies so this should be equally delicious.


Pumpkin Roll

Adapted from A Recipe a Day

pumpkin roll

* Note * I suggest baking and assembling the night before you intend to serve this roll, keep it wrapped in plastic wrap once assembled.  This will help it hold shape and sort of remoisturize.

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel ~ use more if needed)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 can of Duncan Hines Classic Vanilla Frosting or similar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Butter a 15 x 10″ jelly-roll pan then line with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper. On a flat surface sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients in small bowl.  Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in the pumpkin pie filling. Stir in the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched, do not over bake. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and carefully turn cake on to the towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off the paper. Roll up the cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, unroll the cake and towel carefully.  Spread the cake with the vanilla frosting and roll it back up without the towel this time.  Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to help it keep its shape.

Calorie and fat information was taken from http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/

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Little Sister helped make the gravy, it was strenuous work for a two year old…

The gravy making was enjoyable for both of us, unlike the day before when we were making lunch and she poured the dry pasta into the cup of milk standing by.  She must have misunderstood me when I said “next we add the pasta”, she litterally added the pasta to the milk and butter in the cup.  I meant to say “next we cook the pasta”.  Toddlers and young children take everything you say to heart, so chose words wisely!

325ºF for 3 hours (14.5 lb gobbler)

  • 4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp rubbed sage or fresh chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Combine the butter and herbs and spices in a small bowl.  I like to work it with my fingers to get every bit of butter spiked with flavour.  Create pockets under the skin of the turkey, begin at the breasts near the cavity.  Try to make the skin loose around the drumsticks too.  Evenly shove the butter into the pockets, pressing on the outside of the skin to distribute.  Any leftover butter and be smeared over the skin.

Next, fill the cavity.  I don’t usually stuff the bird with dressing, instead I use large pieces of onion, whole herbs and spices, sometimes citrus fruit cut in half.  The filling will eventually scent the broth so choose a complimentary set of flavours.  Today I used fresh rosemary springs and half a white onion with salt and pepper.

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Pie crust and pastry dough is not a forté of mine, at least not yet.  I take the help of pre-made pastry dough when I can.  The trouble is, there’s always two rounds per box and pumpkin pie only requires one.  What to do with the second crust?  Make a handsome pot pie, that’s what!

Here’s what I did.

Cut up one washed bunch of asparagus and put them in a casserole dish with diced ham.  Then I made a roux.  Added thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to the roux.  Poured in some milk and stirred until the sauce thickened up.  Pour this over the asparagus and ham.

Top the casserole with shredded aged cheddar (this was a Kerigold White Aged Cheddar), the stronger the cheese the less you need to use.  I could have used half and achieved a better balance, this stuff is pungent!  Top the cheese with the pastry dough.

Go ahead and make it presentable.  I even made leaves out of the trimmings, how cute, eh?  Egg wash the crust.  Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes or until the crust is evenly brown and crispy.

I made the mistake of adding another splash of milk before putting on the crust.  Should not have done that because the sauce broke and there was all this liquid in the bottom (probably from the asparagus).  At least Hubby ate it, he actually finished the whole pot pie the next day.  That’s what makes me happy, a full Hubby and room in the fridge to store my next disaster!  So lesson learned: make a very thick sauce and use less asparagus.  Maybe mushrooms would work instead.


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The pupusa is so fundamental to the cuisine of El Salvador that the country declared November 13th as National Pupusa Day.

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