Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Favorites

My favorite holiday foods:

  1. Stuffing with gravy
  2. Juicy turkey
  3. Broccoli and cheese casserole (I tried it for the first time this Christmas)
  4. Sugar cookies with frosting
  5. Thimble cookies
  6. Mint hot cocoa
  7. Rum cake
  8. Milk chocolate truffles 
  9. Warm rolls with jam (none this Christmas - sadness)
  10. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast

Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Christmas

Christmas has always been a multiple event affair for me with different parties for different parts of my family. This year included another festivity to the mix: Roommate Christmas! Since Kimmy is leaving this Sunday to join her friends and family in California for Christmas and New Year's, the three of us decided to exchange presents on the 16th, one of the only days this season all three of us would be available at the same time with our busy schedules.

While listening to my New Orleans Christmas CD, Kimmy rolled out beignet dough in the kitchen, using Christmas cookie cutters to make star, tree, and snowman shaped beignets. I've only ever made beignets in the traditional square shape. It never occurred to me to cut them into fun shapes for different special occasions. They were just as tasty as any beignet, if not quite as big and fluffy as those from the Cafe Du Monde. (They never are made at home. Sigh. But I refuse to buy a deep fryer!)

When Bri returned home around noon, she got started on making biscuits and gravy with turkey sausage. Biscuits and gravy is not a dish that I grew up with, but I find it absolutely delicious. In fact, I devoted a whole blog entry about how much I ate biscuits and gravy on my roadtrip with Kimmy across the U.S. last year. I think that I need to learn how to make them for myself. Just the memory is making my mouth water...

My contribution to our special brunch was simple: 100% Florida orange juice and a bottle of Seccola Frizzante, a sparkling wine similar to Prosecco that was produced in Germany with Italian grapes. I believe this is a Trader Joe's exclusive, but I am not sure. You can read a fellow customer's review of the wine here, Seccola Frizzante at Trader Joe's. I don't think that the resuloting mimosas were as sweet as those made with certain champagnes I've had, but the crispness of the wine came through, and I found it to be an excellent pairing with the sweetness of the orange juice.

Relaxing with my roomies over mimosas, biscuits smothered in turkey sausage gravy, and festive beignets piled with powdered sugar was present enough, but the beautiful new earrings from Bri and my new DVD of Hocus Pocus, a movie that I haven't seen in years, but always loved, were very much appreciated, of course.

I'd say this was a great start to the gift-giving season!

Monday, December 17, 2012

I Need A Break

I'm sorry that I wasn't able to update last Thursday. I was busy working 6 days in a row at both jobs, totaling over 50 hours. This week isn't much better. I work 8 days in a row, my next day off being Christmas. I hope to have an update this Thursday, but for now, this is my week's vacation from blogging which doesn't pay nearly as well as either of my other "real world" jobs. I'm sorry. There just isn't enough time during the month of December to do everything (or much of anything) I want. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mixing My Own Drinks

One of my favorite things about working at a bookstore with a tea room is the free stuff I get due to "expiration." Expiration is a myth perpetuated by the food industry in order to get the public to buy more stuff. The best way to judge whether or not food is expired is to check for mold, discoloration, or a bad smell. If you detect none of these things, chances are good that your food is just fine. A magic number printed on the package is the worst indication of food spoilage that I have ever seen.

Anyway, moving along. The expiration date on products works in my favor because it means I get to take home perfectly good food and drinks that I don't have to pay for. Yay for scrounging! Today's find: flavored syrups. 

The obvious thing for me to do with flavored syrups is to make Italian sodas by mixing syrup with tonic water. I don't have tonic water, though, and I didn't really want to buy any, so I just brought the caramel and sugar free vanilla syrups to Game Night to see what people came up with. 

The first - and my favorite - suggestion was to add the caramel syrup to hot chocolate. Oh man. Best hot chocolate I have ever made at home. (It wasn't my home, but it was still a home, so it counts.) No one had brought pop for dinner, so a few people ran out and bought some 2 liters to go with the syrup. People started mixing vanilla colas and vanilla with root beer for homemade cream sodas. I did not try this, but the reports were favorable. 

The next week, I brought the vanilla again, but instead of caramel, I brought cherry syrup. (I would honestly just do shots of the cherry syrup by itself. *cough*) This time I made cherry Pepsis, which were so delicious, and my boyfriend Greg mixed the vanilla with orange pop. He said it tasted very much like an orange creamsicle. 

I have yet to mix the syrups with alcohol, but this seems like another natural combination to me. I fully intend to mix the other syrups with hot chocolate, as well. I think the cherry syrup in hot chocolate would be especially delightful. I used to have them make this for me at Denny's when I was in college by adding a shot of Grenadine (which is technically pomegranate flavoring, not cherry). 

The other flavors I have are blueberry, blackberry, and some others that I can't think of because I am tired. Blackberry hot chocolate might be interesting. I actually don't think blueberry hot chocolate would taste very good, but I am willing to give it a shot. It would probably taste pretty good with vodka, however, or maybe chilled sake. 

All right, I am sleepy, and I think it is time to rest for the night. Happy Hanukkah, everybody!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Latkes!

I love potatoes. I especially love potatoes fried in a pan. This is why latkes - also known as potato pancakes - will always hold a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, I am terrible at making them. And they look so easy! The main ingredients are shredded or mashed potatoes, flour, and egg. (I also like mine with onions.)

My first attempt was from a recipe I got off some recipe book-on-disk for the computer that my mother had. I failed so miserably at making latkes that my friend and I ended up going out to a restaurant for dinner. I don't know what went wrong! They just refused to stay together once they hit the oil. 

I tried again to make them a few years later, and this time they more or less stayed together, but they were thin and very oily. I was one sad panda, let me tell you. I just could not figure out what I was doing wrong.

Then I discovered frozen potato pancakes at Trader Joe's. Technically, they are a seasonal item, but I have yet to figure out which season since they are usually around for both Hanukkah and Passover. Which is fine by me, because I will eat them any day of the year! 

Random Trivia: Latkes are the national dish of Belarus. 

Now, I will eat latkes plain, but my favorite way of consuming them is with sour cream and chives. It took me a little time to come around to eating latkes with apple sauce dolloped on top. I can say now, though, that this is also a perfectly acceptable way to eat them. I do like to use room temperature apple sauce rather than cold out of the fridge because if the apple sauce is too cold, it makes the latkes cold, too, and cold mushy latkes are sad latkes. 

I read somewhere about latkes made with cinnamon. I don't think that sounds too bad, though I think the addition of sugar might be a bit weird. I am just too used to potatoes being on the salty side, I guess. Latkes made with carrots or parsnips and onions also sound terribly delicious. I would love to hear other people's latke suggestions!

I know it's a few days early, but I don't think that matters.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Food in Jars

My very first entry in this blog was about baking sugar cookies to give to people for Christmas. I've done this a lot for people both for the holidays and as birthday presents, which is a great way to save money when you are low on funds, or simply don't know what else to get someone. Baked goods like cookies and brownies are rarely greeted with sadness.

This year, though, I wanted to try something a little different. Like cookies in a jar. Or brownies in a jar. Or maybe hot cocoa in a jar. During the holidays season, people really are inundated with cookies, cakes, pies, sugary breads, and candy. Some relish it, some get a little sick of it, figuratively and sometimes literally. So why not give them something that doesn't need to be immediately consumed? Something that can wait for a blustery January day when the warmth of an oven accompanies by the enticing aroma of baking sugary treats will be well appreciated.

Here are some of the various cookie and brownie recipes that I found while searching Pinterest and Bing:
One addition I thought was a cute ideas, especially for sugar or gingerbread cookies, is to tie a little cookie cutter around the jar. This could be holiday themed, or tailored to the people you are giving the gift to. Use a pirate shaped cookie cutter, for instance, or a dog or cat for animal lovers. Don't forget to include instructions on your jar. A few moist ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter will need to be added by the recipients. 

If your prefer drinking your sweets to nomming them, here are some hot cocoa in a jar recipes:

With all of these choices, I don't quite know what I am going to do! Maybe I will make a few of each kind and then let people choose what they prefer. Presents are all about making people happy! Have fun with your own gifts this year!

Bonus:
It isn't food, but I came across this super cute mason jar craft on Pinterest. If you fill a mason jar partway with Epsom salt, then place a tea light atop the salt, it will look like a candle sitting in snow! The linked site decorated the mason jar with twine and a very neat old fashioned key, but a holiday theme could be used instead, which I think would make a really neat center piece for the dining table!