For those of us who celebrate Christmas, however it is celebrated, it should be a time of Joy and Peace. These are wishes I extend to all my subscribers and viewers. For me, Christmas has always been a special time of family and friends, fun and food and keeping the joy of the season firmly in my heart. My way of expressing the love and joy of this season has always revolved around foods. My grandmother celebrated Christmas Eve by fasting from anything meat or dairy, making Christmas Eve Dinner a challenge. She made a fish and rice casserole that is not among my favorite memories. Yet her house was always warm and welcoming and she more than made up for it on Christmas Day!
Over the years I have created many new recipes, incorporated other cultures into my repertoire of foods and treats. I have made Guatemalan Tamales many times over the years, though I haven't lived in Guatemala for 36 years. Most years I make Nut and/or Poppy Seed Rolls, as did my Slovakian Grandmother. This year I am attempting to make Speculaas (Speculoos) cookies, with my very own Speculaas Spice Mix. check my blog in the next few days to see the results of those. I am always looking for more new traditions to incorporate. My fondest wish is for all peoples, all over the world, to feel the peace of this season in their hearts.
For me, Christmas Cookies are an absolute must, and I try new ones each year. This year my new recipe will be the Speculaas, mentioned above. There are so many "favorites" at this point in time that it gets harder to decide which ones to make. These (pictures above), that I am linking here below, are ones I have been making since I began making Christmas Cookies nearly 50 years ago, favorites my children grew up knowing. Some are ones I grew up with myself, like the "Russian Tea Cakes." My Mom laboriously produced Spritz cookies each year, pressing them through a hand press. I have given up on that task, and just make the Spritz recipe as a Rolled Butter Cookie. The Cinnamon Cookies and Cardamom Almond Cookies were ones I started making while just beginning my own baking journey.
Clockwise from top left:
Cardamom Almond Cookies. In my years as a new wife, living in Guatemala, a friend gave me a jar of cardamon. Never having had the pleasure of tasting cardamom prior to this, I resolved to find ways to use it, and discovered a cookie recipe that called for cardamom. A great way to introduce oneself to this spice, as these cookies are amazing.
Cinnamon Cookies. One of the first cookie recipes I learned as a young wife, these have stayed a favorite in my household ever since. Very cinnamon-y, these are one for anyone who loves spice cookies. They can be made without the glace cherry if you choose. They are delicious, no matter how.
Rolled Butter Cookies. AKA "Spritz," I roll and cut these into small cookies to be iced. Icing is gilding the lily, as these have excellent flavor all on their own. They are so quintessentially "Christmas" to me, that these can never be left out. These were on the table every Christmas throughout my childhood, and then throughout my children's' childhoods, and now are an absolute favorite of my husbands, as well as my own!
Russian Tea Cakesis what I knew these cookies as, while I grew up. Later on I knew them as "Snowballs." Call them what you will, these shortbread type cookies just melt in your mouth. I continue making them to this day.
All these recipes I have detailed above are ones I have made so many times I can't even count them anymore, so they are really tried and true.
Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month.
It seems that everyone has different ways to celebrate Christmas Eve. For us, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve have been evenings of "grazing" on many appetizer dishes. This is not necessarily everyone's preference, but if you have guests, while it is a lot of effort at times, preparing a lot of dishes this way, it does also have the advantage of the likelihood of everyone finding something they like. Plus, many can be made well in advance and just reheated.
All these are things I make often, if not always. But my list of appetizers is long, and there are plenty that lend themselves well to any gathering. If you need a recipe it is highly possible you will find something to fit your needs.
A Festive Holiday Meal
This is a holiday meal often requested at my house, whether for Christmas or New Year's Day, or just for someone's birthday celebration. The foods are spectacularly tasty and truly lovely. Prime Rib is expensive; there's no denying that. But if you find the way to splurge on a good prime rib roast, give this high-temperature roast recipe a try, because it has been perfect all four times I have made it, to date.
Clockwise from top left:
High Temperature Prime Rib Roast. With this recipe, the roast is in the oven for a preset amount of time at 500 degrees, then the oven is turned off and the roast is timed for 2 more hours. Residual heat does the remainder of the cooking. Under no circumstances should the oven door be opened until the time is completely elapsed. Take this into consideration when planning other dishes, unless you have a second oven.
Twice Baked Potatoes. These are pretty, festive and relatively simple. They can be made ahead, wrapped and refrigerated a day ahead, if needed. Just remember to either bring them to room temperature before baking, or allow a bit of extra time in the oven.
Cloverleaf Rolls (from Basic Potato Roll Dough). A very simple dough recipe that makes soft and beautifully flavored rolls. Cloverleaves are formed by making three small balls of dough to fit into each well of a muffin tin. Once puffed and baked, they create these beautiful little rolls, making quite the statement at table.
Green Beans with Gorgonzola. These green beans are a family favorite. Plus, the Gorgonzola goes wonderfully well with the flavors of the Prime Rib Roast.
And, a Most Splendid Cheesecake for Dessert
I came up with this idea a few years back, and it came out so spectacularly, both in flavors and in presentation, that for a holiday showstopper, this is a must try. I wanted a cheesecake that was not too cloyingly sweet. Check. I wanted to make it a "salted caramel style" yet not too salty. Check. I wanted the cheesecake to have melt in the mouth creaminess. Check. Do try this. You won't regret it!
Making Dulce de Leche
Dulce means "sweet" or "candy" and Leche means "milk" in Spanish. So, "sweet milk, or a "milk candy" could both be possible translations. It is similar to caramel, but without the oozy runny-ness. One cannot be substituted for the other.
If perhaps you might like to try making the magnificent Dulce de Leche Cheesecake above, then making some dulce de leche is needed, first. The "recipe" if one can even call it that, is absolute simplicity. And if you, like me, tend to leave things and not get around to using it right away, some of the recipes out there where the cans of sweetened condensed milk are opened and poured into a pan on the stove or in the oven, then this method is by far the most preferable.
Set a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk, wrappers removed, into a crock pot, covered by water at least an inch or so. Set on low and let it run for 8 to 9 hours. I set it just before going to bed. Turn off the crock pot once the time is up and leave the cans in the water until it cools. Use a marker to note what is in the can and the date you made it!
Celebrating Christmas here in the US, I wish to extend greetings to all my subscribers and friends this holiday season. I hope you will visit all my sites and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It requires some real attention to detail, to be sure. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick.