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Posts Tagged ‘Blogmas’

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without homemade cookies and other treats. I have my usual favorites but also enjoy discovering new recipes that are good enough to make it into the annual repertoire.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (aka Alton Brown’s “The Chewy”)

This is the best chocolate chip cookie ever. Hands  down. Look no further. Alton Brown did a series on the Food Network about chocolate chip cookies and explained how the chemistry of the ingredients resulted in different types of chocolate chip cookies (chewy, crisp, etc.). Genius!

This chewy morsel of deliciousness if heaven on a plate (if it eve makes it to a plate from the cookie sheet that is)! The secrets: Use bread flour (not all-purpose), melt the butter and have a mix of brown and white sugar. You’ll never need another recipe for chocolate chip cookies for the rest of your life.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces (4 1/2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 ounce (2 Tbsp) whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Melt the butter in a 2-quart (2 litre) saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda onto a paper plate. Pour the butter into your stand mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

Using the paper plate as a slide, gradually integrate the dry ingredients, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the flour is worked in, drop the speed to “stir” and add the chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven.

Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-ounce portions onto parchment-lined half sheet pans, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven, slide the parchment with the cookies onto a cooling rack and wait at least 5 minutes before devouring.

Yield: Makes about 20-24 cookies. They keep well in an airtight container.

Note: The darker the sugar you use, the chewier your cookies will be.

My adaptations: I don’t sift the flour. I use dark brown sugar. I don’t use a stand mixer, I mix everything in a bowl by hand with a wooden spoon and when incorporating the dry into the wet ingredients, I stir until just mixed, then stir in the chocolate chips and scoop with an ice cream scooper onto cookie sheets lined with either silicon sheets or parchment.

Before baking:

After baking:

The next recipe is a new one (to me) that comes from the Outlander Kitchen cookbook. The cookbook is based on the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon about Claire, who travels through time to mid 18th century Scotland and falls in love with highlander Jamie Fraser. The recipes are pulled out of the book (where foods are referred to in passing) and being able to make them yourself makes it seem like you’re right there in Scotland with Claire and Jamie.

Ginger-Nut Biscuits

This is not your traditional ginger snap cookie. This is a slightly spiced soft pillow of ginger and cinnamon goodness. Perfect with tea, or coffee, or plain old tap water for that matter – they’re that good.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp kosher or coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar (for rolling)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl with a wooden spoon, cream butter with brown sugar vigorously until fluffy. Beat in honey and eggs until well combined and smooth.

In another bowl, combine flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir into wet ingredients until just mixed.

Shape into golf-sized balls and roll in white sugar to coat. Place on an ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Do not flatten.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven and rest on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool

These keep well in an airtight container, or you can freeze them too (although they’ve never lasted long enough in my house to freeze them).

Soft Chewy Caramels

These aren’t a cookie but they are definitely a decadent treat to enjoy during the holidays and make a great gift (just so you don’t lose complete control and eat them all!!). There are only a few ingredients and you don’t need a candy thermometer. Win-win! Although making candy can be a tricky experience, I’ve never had issues with this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1½ sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • Optional: coarse sea salt, ½ teaspoon vanilla (see note)

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan combine butter and sugar and stir over medium heat until melted. Stir in corn syrup and condensed milk.
  2. Bring to a boil and then decrease to simmer 7-10 minutes or until mixture achieves deep golden color, stirring constantly. (*For lower altitudes, simmer time may need to be reduced 2-3 minutes, watch carefully for coloring!)
  3. Pour caramel into a foil-lined 8×8 inch pan and allow to cool completely. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt if desired.
  4. When completely cooled, cut into squares and wrap in wax paper.
NOTES
  • Makes about 20-30 caramels (depending on how large you cut them)
  • Recipe prep time does not include cooling time which may be 1-2 hours
  • For additional richness and flavor, you can stir in ½ teaspoon vanilla after removing the caramel from the heat and before pouring it into your prepared pan. sprinkle coarse sea salt on top of caramels for a boost of rich salted caramel flavor!

Sorry for the blurry pic – it was all I could do to hold back from scarfing them all in one sitting. 🙂

Here’s to Christmas cookies, treats and other goodies!

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There are a few variations of this one but I like this one best. 🙂

Twas the Day After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurting– even the mouse.

The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.

Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor,
While upstairs the family continued to snore.

And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,
Went into the kitchen and started to clean.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should arrive,
But a little red truck, with an unwanted prize.

The driver was smiling, so lively, like most;
The patch on his jacket said “CANADA POST.”

With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox
Then quickly he stuffed them into my mailbox.

Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name:

“Now Dillard’s, now Moores, now Levi’s and Sears
Here’s Zellers and Costco and the Bay—They’re all here!!

To the tip of your limit, every store, every mall.
Now chargeaway-chargeaway-chargeaway all!

He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.
He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.

He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.

Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,
“ENJOY WHAT YOU GOT … YOU’LL BE PAYING ALL YEAR!”

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Christmas makes me thirsty. As do many other things…like Christmas shopping, caroling and Tuesdays. 🙂

I like to enjoy a festive cocktail especially during the holidays when happiness and excitement are in the air, everyone is in a god mood and revelry is rampant. Good times!

I came across this post and found so many recipes I wanted to try all in one spot that I wanted to share it with all of you! Look at these White Christmas Mojitos…

And Cranberry Margaritas? Yes please!!

And who can say “Jingle Juice” without smiling? No one. I dare you.

Check this link out from our good friends at Country Living to discover some fun new cocktails to try for yourself this holiday season: 30 Easy Christmas Cocktails – Best Recipes for Christmas Alcoholic Drinks

Cheers!!

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We each have our favorite Christmas songs. You know the ones. The song that reminds you of a special someone. Or a funny memory that makes you giggle each time you hear it on the radio. Or the song the whole family knows all the words to. Or the one from your favorite holiday movie that never fails to warm your heart. Or the song that fills you with Christmas spirit in the early days of December. Or the one that makes you wistful for simpler days and an old-fashioned Christmastime.

I’m feeling warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. 🙂 Even if the same song is done by different artists, there’s usually one version that speaks to you more than the others.

See below for my favorite Christmas songs; they have a permanent spot of my Xmas playlist. It was very very difficult to keep it to 20. In fact, my title started out as a top ten list…lol

  1. White Christmas – Bing Crosby
  2. Silver Bells – Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney
  3. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
  4. Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
  5. The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
  6. Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby a helms
  7. O Holy Night – Celine Dion
  8. All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
  9. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
  10. Carol of the Bells – Mykola Dmytroych Leontovych, Peter J. Wilhousky, John Williams (Home Alone)
  11. Sleigh Ride – Phil Spector
  12. Jingle Bells – Michael Buble
  13. Do You Hear What I Hear – Whitney Houston
  14. Pentatonix the whole album: PTXmas
  15. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
  16. Baby it’s Cold Outside – Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton
  17. Santa Baby – Madonna
  18. The Nutcracker Suite – The Brian Setzer Orchestra
  19. The 12 Days of Christmas – Straight No Chaser
  20. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Mariah Carey

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify including the songs above plus many more:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/22qpxvtyeazyyq6hxaks7elmi/playlist/28bH9xmEhoShpYYE9ZNNX4

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That really should say my recipe, my mom’s recipe, my grandmother’s recipe and further back even… Over the years and generations, we each probably tweaked it a bit to our liking but it’s the recipe that’s stayed in the family and one person in each generation carries the torch to cook the bird every year. For my generation, that person is me. 🙂

Early on, I’d say about 10 years old or so, my interest in cooking started. I’d hang out in the kitchen observing others prepare meals, helping with small tasks and enjoy watching how separate ingredients would be magically transformed into delicious dishes that people oohed and aahed over. The creative outlet and the chance to make family happy (and friends, later) were the hook for me. It’s been a lifelong passion ever since.

I’ve made this turkey every year for at least 17 years now. I’ve typically been the dinner host for family gatherings and even since my husband and I moved to Toronto from Montreal in 2008, we still end up with family visiting. I’d like to think they come to see me but secretly suspect it’s the turkey that draws them near. Or at least the craving for the continuity of family traditions. I look forward to the day that I’ll pass the recipe on to one of my nieces; Sienna seems more interested in cooking than Maddie but you never know. Luckily, I’ve got several more turkeys in me yet. 🙂

Roasted Turkey

Ingredients:

1 frozen turkey (I always get a Butterball and I let it defrost in the fridge anywhere from 3-5 days prior, depending on the size)

1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered

2 lemons, quartered lengthwise

Fresh thyme, a bunch (about 3-4 springs)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (in the microwave) – I don’t always use it all

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325F and get your roasting pan and meat thermometer ready. Make sure you adjust your oven racks too and your sink is empty and clean and so are your hands. Take the turkey out of the fridge, remove the wrapper and rinse out the turkey in the sink, remove the neck and giblets from the cavity, pat dry and place it in the roasting pan. (Warning: This is probably the least graceful prep exercise of anything you’ll ever cook, so best to do it with as few witnesses as possible. I usually get up at 6am to do it since we have a holiday lunch instead of a dinner. The only witness was usually the cat but even he looked at me with disdain during this part).

Next comes the fun part. Slather the softened butter all over the turkey; I use my hands. So fun. Next (after washing your hands of course), add the onion, lemon and fresh thyme to the cavity. Add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper in there too. Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with salt, pepper and dried thyme. Stick the meat thermometer in (I put it between the leg and the body because that’s usually the last spot to cook through), cover the pan/turkey with foil and pop it into the oven. Try not to throw your back out when doing this step. 🙂

Cooking times vary depending on size and whether the bird is stuffed or not. I usually get a 16-20 lb turkey and at 325F it usually cooks for about 4 hours. I rely on the meat thermometer to gauge when to start the side dishes which usually take about 2 hours start to finish, some started the day before to keep the oven free for turkey morning. See Butterball’s handy turkey calculator here which includes how much turkey to buy, how long to defrost it and how long to cook it.

Once there’s about an hour left, I remove the foil and baste if I’m so inclined. Since I usually carve in the kitchen and place turkey slices on a platter for the table (also make sure it’s all cooked through – no one wants a raw poultry surprise), there’s no pressure of the perfect looking bird. You can do so if you like.

That’s it! It’s the easiest thing to roast in my opinion and the most bang for your buck for the little effort that goes into it. The recipe above always results in a juicy and delicious turkey (if I do say so myself) and a house that smells amazing. The side dishes complement the turkey but the bird is the star of the show! My mom used to return the turkey slices/pieces to the pan and let them simmer in their juices while she finished the side dishes. I never found the patience to do that – once it’s ready I want to eat it now!!

Some pics of the holiday table over the years, some for a small gathering, some for a crowd:

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One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit is to hunker down with a blanket and some popcorn and watch a Christmas movie. I look forward to my favourites every year. Some are sentimental, some are modern and some are downright hysterical. Depending on the mood you’re in (or trying to get out of), there is a holiday movie out there for you! I left the traditional classics off the list (e.g. It’s a Wonderful Life) because I find that I can’t watch them every year; they’re better with a couple years rest in between viewings, for me anyway.

Here’s my top ten:

  1. Home Alone
  2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
  3. The Ref
  4. Love Actually
  5. Elf
  6. Polar Express
  7. Bridget Jones’ Diary
  8. Four Christmasses
  9. The Family Stone
  10. The Harry Potter series

You may find the last one an unusual choice. It has an element of Christmas in every movie, and I enjoy a Xmas to New Year marathon so it’s become a bit of a tradition. 🙂 

The Home Alones and Love Actually are what I consider “new classics”. 

Elf and Polar Express are great holiday spirit films that will make believers out of the bah-humbuggiest out there.

If you need some laughs at this time of year, look no further then The Ref (hilarious, sharp funny writing), Four Christmasses (your dysfunctional family has got nothing on Reese and Vince’s), The Family Stone (laugh out loud) and Bridget Jones (laugh at her and with her).

I’m sure everyone has their own set of favorites and go-to Christmas movies. I’d love to hear what yours are so I can add to my list!

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Ever since we were little girls, my mom would bring my sister and I to see the Nutcracker. We felt so grown up, dressing fancy to go to the ballet in Montreal to see Les Grands Ballets dance the magical ballet The Nutcracker.

Tchaikovsky’s music is a mainstay in our home during the holidays. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve been to see it. from the opening party scene, to the troublemaking mice, to Clara and her Nutcracker, to the Sugar Plum Fairy, the dances from the various countries, to the amazing pas de deux – every part gives me goosebumps.

Here’s a snippet of one of my favorite scenes at the end of Act 1 – because it snows!!! Magic.

And if you’re so inclined, feel free to escape into Clara’s dreamland and listen to the whole thing (audio only):

 

 

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Hallmark is renowned for their made-for-TV Christmas movies. They are, admittedly, a bit predictable but they all encourage the spirit of the holidays, have happy endings and include all the fun Christmas activities we expect, love and secretly (or openly) want to partake in. Personally, I watch a ton of them in the weeks leading up to the big day.

But this year, we have something extra. I was unable to locate the source of this GENIUS creation but whoever came up with it deserves an award.

See below for the Hallmark Movie Drinking Game:


It’s so accurate, I laughed so hard and couldn’t wait to play! All in the spirit of sharing warm and fuzzy moments with my fellow movie watchers of course. And possibly increasingly blurry moments. At least if you do it right. 🙂 

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The holidays are an emotional time, where feelings are often near the surface and people are quick to laugh, to cry, to smile, to feel. I think it’s because so many memories are made, and brought to mind, at Christmastime. All the more reason to spread some good cheer as often as you can, to make people smile and focus on the joy of the season.

I like being surprised by funny pics, videos or stories that have unexpected punchlines or endings. Here’s one that made me laugh out loud. Olaf is my favourite. 🙂 

 

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I like a good poem now and again. And ones that poke fun at how ridiculous the world around us has become? Priceless. 🙂

Reindeer (Alaska, May 2012)

Twas The Night — Politically Correct

‘Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck…
How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves.”
“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the North Pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.

Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with four pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard roof noises up on their roof-tops.
Smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur-trimmed red suit was called “Unenlightened.”

And to show you the strangeness of life’s ebbs and flows,
Rudolf would sue o’er the use of his nose
And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Asking millions of dollars in due compensation.

So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she’d had enough of this life,
Joined a self-helping group, and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.

And as for the gifts, he’d ne’er had a notion
That making a choice could cause such commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.

Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim and nothing to shoot.
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls, or just for the boys.

Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that’s warlike and so, non-pacific.
Or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.

And fairy tales too, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie…(just better off hidden.)
For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who said the only good gift was one ecological.

No baseball, not football…someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to the dirt.
Dolls were too sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo, ’twas found, rots your brain cells away.

So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He just couldn’t figure out what to do next.
He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
(But you’ve got to be careful with that word today.)

His sack was quite empty, lay limp on the ground;
No suitable gift for this year could be found.
Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.

A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people and every religion;
Every ethnicity, each color and hue,
Everyone, everywhere…even to you.
So here is that gift, its price beyond worth…
May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth.”

 

Notice: This poem is copyright 1992 by Harvey Ehrlich. It is free to distribute, without changes, as long as this notice remains intact. All follow-ups, requests, comments, questions, distribution rights, etc. should be made to shore@fringenet.net (Who is not Harvey Ehrlich, but who has obtained permission to distribute this on the internet as Harvey is a friend who does not have access to the internet). Happy Holidays!

 

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