Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

A Family of Foodies

My family Christmas was full of quality time spent together. Since Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, we worked our Christmas traditions around our Sunday church service. You can tell we aren’t kids anymore, since sleeping in was more important than early morning Christmas presents! We still enjoyed our traditional Christmas breakfast of egg casserole before church, but with a few veggie twists for me. Since I can remember, my mom has made a church cookbook breakfast stratta with pork sausage, eggs, cheese, and bread cubes. She still made the traditional favorite for my dad and sister, but adapted another casserole recipe for me.
The original recipe is from Simply Living Healthy, and I sent it to my mom a few months ago knowing how much she loves jicama. She made it for my family when they went to Florida, and wanted to make it for me as well. Instead of using sausage, she added more mushrooms for meaty texture. The jicama adds a great sweet crust, and the dairy-free, veggie and protein packed casserole will keep you full all morning. Check out our vegetarian twist, or head over for the original recipe!


After church, we enjoyed surprising each other with thoughtful gifts. My sister searched high and low for a fun teapot for me, and my parents surprised me with a great new knife, set of mixing bowls, French press, and a few other fun kitchen gifts. But it turns out I am not the only foodie in the family! My sister got a waffle iron, an immersion blender, and an apron, and my mom got a new electric pasta maker! We spent the rest of the day playing with our new toys.
We couldn’t get my mom’s pasta maker to work that day, which was a huge bummer. The dough has to be the perfect consistency to not get stuck in the extruder, and we couldn’t get it to work. We gave up for the afternoon and broke out my hand roller, so we still got to enjoy fresh pasta with homemade sauce for Christmas dinner! (My mom persevered and finally got the right dough consistency yesterday, so the electric pasta maker will stay!)


Our Christmas celebrations will continue for the week, since my mom, sister, and I are all home and work-free. My sister and I are delivering our last Christmas present to our parents tonight: a gourmet dinner at home! On the menu: petite beef wellington, warm beet salad, lobster ravioli, and rum poached pears! Come back tomorrow for the recipes and pictures!


Jicama Breakfast Casserole

adapted from Simply Living Healthy, serves 4-6

12-14 ounce jicama (weight is before peeling and shredding)
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
1  tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
6 eggs
1/4 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Saute mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat. Don’t over crowd the pan, as you want the mushrooms crispy. (This may require cooking in two batches depending on the size of your pan.) Peel the jicama and shred the root. Press between paper towels to absorb as much water as possible. Press into a glass pie dish as a crust. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and coconut milk. Layer the mushrooms and roasted red pepper over the jicama, and then pour the egg mixture over top. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish and bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Remove the top and bake for 7-10 more minutes. Cut into slices to serve.


December 27, 2011 at 11:36 am 5 comments

Grandpa Cookies

That is how this recipe is saved on my computer, since those are the way I will always remember these cookies. Each year, my paternal grandparents would fly in from the midwest to spend the Christmas week with us, and each year we would make up an enormous batch of pizzelles. It would start out as a fun endeavor, but with a recipe that calls for a dozen eggs, we would soon tire of standing in front of the waffle iron. We would chug through, though, knowing how happy it made my Grandpa to have his favorite cookie on Christmas. We no longer spend the holidays together, but my sister and I still wanted to share this holiday memory with Grandpa. We halved the recipe, broke out the cookie iron that belonged to my grandfather’s mother, and made a batch of pizzelles. Maybe our attention span is longer than it used to be, but the process flew by! We ended up making two batches, sending the first to my grandparents and dividing the second among cookie plates for friends and our cookie jar.


The real baker behind all of the lovely Christmas cookies featured this week


Our ancient pizzelle iron

If you have never had a pizzelle, they are like a flattened waffle cone with a hint of liccorice flavor from the anise. They are crisp, light, and not too sweet – a great break from the overly sweet treats that fill our homes this time of year. Our tricks for the perfect pizzelle: lots of anise in the batter, constant attention to not overcook the cookie, and a dusting of powdered sugar! They do require special equipment to make, but a pizzelle iron would be a fun novelty item for any baker. Here is the classic pizzelle recipe from my Grandpa’s family, in case you happen to have a cookie press lying around and begging for good use! (It is halved for the attention challenged, if you are anything like me and my sister…)

Question: Are you traveling to be with family for the holidays, or will you be hosting any out of town house guests?


Grandpa Cookies (Pizzelles)

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

3 sticks butter, soft

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp anise extract

3 cups flour

cooking spray

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Whisk together eggs and sugar until well combined. Add the butter and whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and anise. Stir in flour until loose dough formed. Heat the pizzelle iron. Coat with cooking spray. Add a spoonful of batter to the center of the iron and close. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then check the cookie. The pizzelle should be lightly browned. Remove with a fork to a plate, and then move to a flat surface covered with wax paper to cool. Before completely cool, dust lightly with Confectioner’s sugar. Repeat, adjusting the amount of dough added and watching cooking time as each batch will cook differently depending on how long the iron is in use.

December 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm 4 comments

Family Traditions

Every family has their classic Christmas cookie. For many, the standard sugar cookie brings back memories of rolling out dough and cutting out fun shapes. While we have great pictures of my sister and me covered in flour and colored sugar as little blonde troublemakers, the cookie that really reminds me of Christmas is my Grandma’s ribbon cookies. They are essentially a sugar cookie dough that is dyed to the colors of the season, then chilled in a loaf pan and sliced into simple, square cookies. They are unassuming on a cookie platter, often hiding behind the more decorative gingerbread men or sugar cookie shapes, but these are a cookie not to miss.


If it weren't Christmas time, someone might think our family has a lot of Italian pride!

Whether you make the red, white and green for Christmas, or change up the colors for a school sports event or other holiday, these are a simple and delightful cookie. Baking them makes me feel like I am with family, whether they are with us for Christmas or not. This is the second of Grandma’s cookie recipes that I am sharing with you, and contains the modifications that my mom, my sister, and I have made throughout the years to get them just the way we love them. Make sure the butter is soft, but not melted, and don’t overbake these cookies. They are best before they brown, while still soft and just cooked. These won’t stay around for long so don’t worry about storing them!


The original slice and bake cookie

Question: What cookie reminds you most of Christmas?


Ribbon Cookies

from a family recipe, makes 6 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 ¼ cup flour

¼ tsp salt

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

Food coloring

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix next three ingredients. Divide dough into three equal parts. Stir red food coloring into one, green into another, and leave the third plain. (Start with a few drops, and then adjust to get the color intensity you desire). Line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with waxed paper. Pack green dough, plain dough, and then red dough. Fold waxed paper over top. Press down to smooth layers together. Chill for 12-24 hours. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove dough and cut in half lengthwise, and then slice ¼ inch thick. Put on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes but do not brown.

December 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm 3 comments

From Grandma’s Cookbook

My Sunday has been spent baking dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies. Many will be plated up to send off to family and friends, but of course will be lying around our house for some Christmas treats! Over the next few days, I will share some of my family’s favorite cookie recipes. Most of them are from my Grandma, and I have been making them since I could bake. I hope that you try one recipe to add to your cookie collection and enjoy them as much as my family does!


As a kid, I didn’t understand the draw of these cookies. They were fun to make, but they were to mature for my young taste buds. I was a faithful helper, and every year I made these with my mom or Grandma, simply to get them done and move onto the “more fun” cookies. However, these have grown to become my favorite of my family’s traditional Christmas cookies. These tassies are like miniature pecan pies, with a soft, flaky crust and sweet, nutty filling. They stand out on a Christmas cookie platter, and are always a hit at parties. My Grandma always makes them with walnuts, but I like them best with pecans. Use whichever you have on hand, as either way the result is fantastic. Instead of making a whole pie this Christmas, try these cookies as a great alternative. Definitely not any healthier than a pecan pie, but at least you can enjoy just one bite! If you can only eat just one, that is… ;)

Question: Do you have any Christmas cookie recipes that have been passed through generations?



From an old family recipe, makes approx. 48 cookies


8 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese

½ lb. butter

2 ½ cups flour (can mix whole wheat and white)

Cream butter and cream cheese until well blended. Work flour into mixture by hands. Pinch of walnut sized amount of dough and press with thumb very thinly into greased mini-muffin tins.


1 ½ cup brown sugar (half light and half dark)

3 eggs

3 tbsp melted butter

2 tsp vanilla

1 ½ cup chopped pecans (or walnuts, or a mix)

Beat first 4 ingredients with beater. Fold into chopped nuts. Fill pastry shell 3/4 full. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Take tarts out and place on cooling rack close together and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Store in an airtight container.

December 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm 2 comments

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

In my mind, it is now officially Christmas! Exams are over, so now my time can be filled with Christmas cookie baking, making homemade gifts, and coming up with creative wrapping papers. I have always been a self-labeled Christmas nerd, but Pinterest has only fueled my obsession. There are so many great DIY ideas for Christmas ornaments, decorations, gifts in a jar, and recycled gift wrapping! Check out my holiday board for some of the ideas I love right now, and here are some pictures of creative Christmas crafts I have already completed.


Chocolate covered pretzels, a great gift idea for holiday party hosts. About 30 mini-pretzels can fit in a standard canning jar, and then you can decorate it simply with scrapbooking paper or ribbon to make it look festive!


A paper twilling Christmas ornament that I made last year when I finished my anatomy course. The tutorial I used can be found here by clicking the picture.


Another paper ornament from last year, a 3D paper star. Click the picture for the tutorial to make these yourself!


A really simple paper heart ornament, made with 4 strips of double-sided scrapbook paper.


A snow flurry inside of my own dining room! I have been seeing this all over Pinterest and couldn't resist. I love that I can leave this up over the rest of the winter!

As a poor med student, I have to rely on creativity for gifts and holiday fun. Christmas doesn’t have to drain your bank account, and there are so many fun ideas to make Christmas thoughtful and affordable. I am so grateful to have the next week to spend making cards and Christmas cookies, as well as spend time with friends and family!

Question: What are you doing in this week leading up to Christmas?

December 17, 2011 at 11:05 am 6 comments

Adventures In Vegan Baking

Apparently my baking spurts come in twos. Remember last time when I un-veganized two recipes? Well, this time, I made two vegan baked treats! A few thoughts on vegan baking before I tempt you with recipes and pictures…

Many people assume, myself often included, that vegan baking is inherently healthier. True, it does not contain nearly as much saturated fat or cholesterol, and homemade baked goods don’t contain the preservatives and additives that come from a box. However, vegan treats often contain as much, if not more, sugar than regular baked goods. After reading this article on the toxicity of sugar in the NY Times and this post about giving up sugar by another food blogger, it has made me re-think sugar once again. This article makes bold claims about the health risks of sugar – it is not just linked to obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, but also to cancer. Research has shown that sugar is handled by our bodies differently, and that 100 calories of sugar will indeed make us fatter than 100 calories of protein. So that leaves me with some questions, and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you feel like vegan baking is healthier, and why? Are you more concerned with the fat content of a dish, or the sugar content? How do you feel about the arguments presented in this article? Does it affect your views on the amount of sugar you consume?

This is a hard time to read this article, with the holidays right around the corner! So many of our Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions center around food. With Christmas cookie season around the corner, it is important to be both mindful of the amount of sugar we consume, but also thankful for the tradition and celebration of the Christmas season. I am convinced that added sugar should be avoided, and will continue to keep my daily sugar intake to a minimum. But who am I to avoid a homemade treat? Especially when it is as delicious as these vegan baked goods!


This Black Bean Brownie recipe from No Meat Athlete may be the best vegan brownie I have tasted. The texture is great, and the chocolate flavor is rich. The coffee flavor comes through a bit too strong in the way the recipe is written, so I would cut that down if you aren’t looking for a mocha flavor. I want to try to cut down a bit on the sugar for the next time I make these as well, but they are definitely on the favorite dessert list!


Another favorite dessert: these vegan chocolate cupcakes. The last time I made these, my friend declared that she dreamt about them that night. So how could you not make her a batch for her birthday? The cupcakes themselves are pretty healthy – whole wheat, low-fat, and low sugar. The icing will give you a sugar high, though, but what icing won’t? I changed up the frosting this time, adding peppermint extract instead of coffee to make them Chocolate Peppermint cupcakes! The vegan Peppermint Frosting Recipe is below!


If vegan baking can’t put you in the holiday spirit, then maybe some Christmas music will! Now, many sticklers out there will argue that Christmas music shouldn’t be played until Friday, after Thanksgiving festivities are finished. However, my friend has unofficially declared November 15th as the first acceptable day for Christmas music, decorating, baking, and holiday cheer. That marks 40 days until Christmas, so why not celebrate?

image-76466-fullAnd what better way to celebrate the start of the holiday season than with my church’s latest album? They have been working hard since the summer to record some reworked Chrismas classics, as well as some original Indie Christmas tunes. You can stream it here. Take a listen and let me know what your favorite track is (mine is #6!)


Vegan Peppermint Icing

adapted from this recipe

1/4 cup Earth balance buttery stick, room temperature

1/8 cup nondairy milk

1 tsp peppermint extract

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

7 peppermint candies

In a small bowl with a hand mixer, whip together the butter, milk, and peppermint extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar until the frosting is a desired consistency (should be stiff and smooth). Finely crush the peppermint candies. After icing the cupcakes, roll lightly in the crushed candies.

November 22, 2011 at 12:14 am 4 comments

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