12 Days of Blogmas: Holiday Food and Drinks

Just for Fun

Now we’re getting to the good stuff!


It always amuses me that Mom and I have to discuss what we’re doing for the holidays when, 9 times out of 10, we do the same thing every time. My family isn’t big on change, especially when it comes to holiday menus.

Glazed Ham

If Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, Christmas, to me, means ham. And not just any ham, but Mom’s glazed ham. It’s the glaze, which is super simple, that really makes the holiday ham shine. What she does is makes a paste with brown sugar and spicy brown mustard and then thins it out just a bit with orange juice. Spread it over the ham and bake according to the package directions. It’s just that simple.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

These are a holiday staple, any holiday, and because sweet potatoes are our go-to, we pretty much never do mashed potatoes for any family holiday dinner. We don’t go the mini marshmallows and nuts direction, just slices of sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon and dotted with butter, topped with a cooked syrup of Karo syrup, brown sugar, and butter. So indulgent and so delicious.

Cheese Plate

This is a relatively recent addition to our holiday traditions. Who doesn’t love a good cheese tray, right? Ours follows no particular rules other than what sounds good when we go to the store. Some nights it’s been Boursin and St. Andre, other nights we’re doing Havarti and a blueberry-coated goat cheese. Wensleydale and Port Salut. Brie, however, is a staple. Sometimes it’s baked in pastry, but a wedge of brie never goes amiss at our house.

Cheese-Covered Something

Growing up, broccoli and cheese or cauliflower and cheese were regulars on the holiday buffet, it just depends on what looks best at the grocery store that week. Mom makes an enriched white sauce (a bechamel with eggs added) and adds a healthy dose of Velveeta with more on top. Now, okay, I’m not a big fan of Velveeta, but it definitely reminds me of my childhood. So points for nostalgia. Some years I’ll do homemade mac & cheese, instead (with Swiss, Cheddar, and Monterrey Jack). That’s our idea of switching things up.

Rum Balls

I mentioned these in my Memories post, and because of that story, I make Rum Balls most Christmases, even if it’s just a small batch for myself. Now, most recipes I see for these call them Bourbon Balls but Maw Maw always used rum so that’s what I use. I stopped using nuts in them when Todd came along (just use more crumbled cookies) and we always roll them in granulated sugar, not powdered sugar. They’re best if they have a few days to “set-up” so I guess I better get those started this weekend. (And just hope I can stay out of them until Christmas!)

Christmas Cookies

I usually bring dessert to Christmas Eve dinner and what I bring is more or less up to me. Last year I couldn’t decide what to make, so I decided to make a bunch of different cookies and call it a day. It went over so well I’m doing it again this year and it may become my new holiday tradition. Growing up we’d do the rolled sugar cookies but I don’t always have the patience for those, preferring drop cookies instead. So chocolate chip, chocolate snowball crinkles,  fudge cookies (can you see a theme?) along with simpler drop sugar cookies and cornmeal cookies were all a big hit. And I never make small batches, so we brought half of them over to Mom’s and snacked on the other half at home for weeks.

Egg Nog

Egg Nog is a love it or hate it thing for most people, I think. I love it! I put it in my coffee, I drink it regular or spiked, I adore it. I stock up starting on Thanksgiving, but since I’m lactose intolerant I stick with the Lactaid brand Nog and it gets scarce pretty quickly. Our local Publix was completely out last week, so I stopped on my way home from Tallahassee and they only had 1 carton at the newer, big Publix on the north side. I didn’t even see a space for it, so I doubt it’ll be restocked. So I also settled for a carton of Silk eggnog, though it’s not my favorite. Maybe if I mix it it won’t be so bad.


The last thing I want to do, after prepping a big dinner for days, is get right back in the kitchen. We always cook for an army no matter how many or few we are, and it’s totally in service of having leftovers for at least a few days. In previous years I’ve made a separate Christmas Day dinner for Todd and I but I decided that was really too much work for what it was, so we’re going to nosh on leftovers and some other finger foods we’ve laid in for the day and take a holiday for extra work and extra dishes!

The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!

The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!

Giving Thanks for Resourcefulness


Our oven quit 3 hours before dinner on Thanksgiving day.

Oh, yes, friends, it was one of those holidays.

Strange thing is, the oven worked fine that morning. I’d gotten up in time to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as I prepped the sweet potato pie, cornbread for dressing, and chicken stock (also for the dressing).

About noon I was done with my prep (dinner wasn’t until 5:30, so we had plenty of time) and shut off the oven.

I kinda wish I’d kept it on for those 3 hours, maybe then Todd wouldn’t have had to “bake” the corn casserole and rolls on our propane grill.

Todd using the gas grill as an improptu oven on Thanksgiving

And I wouldn’t have had dressing cooked on some antiquated cross between a hot plate and a crock pot.

But at least our turkey goes into a counter-top roaster oven (leaving the oven free–in this case free and clear to up and die) so that wasn’t a problem.

Though, in a very strange twist of fate the top of the bird was registering done after 1 1/2 hours but when we went to carve it the thighs–the part of the bird closest to the heating elements–was still underdone. Still haven’t figured out the how on that one, but a few minutes in the microwave solved that one pretty quick.

So this year’s Thanksgiving was a true learning experience. Here are some tips I thought I’d pass along:

  1. If you make Alton Brown’s Sweet Potato Pie, don’t use Greek-style yogurt, it’ll be too strong.
  2. But if you do, a slice warmed and served a la mode (with or without Torani Pumpkin Pie Syrup) will still taste just fine and dandy.
  3. If you run out of vanilla and the stores are closed, both vanilla rum and vanilla vodka made quick substitutes.
  4. Make sure to remove both the giblets packet AND the neck from the cavity of the turkey (I caught the error before we put the turkey in to roast).
  5. You can use your propane grill as an impromptu oven, but you might want to prop your casserole dish up on a couple of bricks to allow air to circulate under the dish, too. (If not you’ll end up with a more-than-toasted bottom of the casserole, but it did give it a nice grilled-corn flavor!).
  6. You can also finish dressing in a slow-cooker/hot-plate sort of device, just don’t expect the top to get all nice and brown (seriously, I don’t know what this contraption of Todd’s is, but it worked and that’s all that counts).
  7. Counter-top roasters are the bomb for speed-roasting a turkey. (That’s not new, but still true.)
  8. Placing a towel under the cutting board when carving the turkey may not be enough–you might want to tuck one into the cabinet door below the counter and let it rest on the floor. Just be happy you have a juicy turkey.

And if you have a doggie guest for Thanksgiving, don’t be surprised if they offer to “mop” the floor under the carving station for you. Molly was committed to getting that floor spotless 😉

We also tried a new hors d’oeuvres this year for pre-dinner noshing.

Apples on Horseback appetizer

I could swear I got an email last week with a recipe for apples on horseback (either that or I totally misread Angels on Horseback and hallucinated the rest of the article). When I couldn’t find my reference email, I decided to just go with it.

Apples on Horseback

3 Apples, small to medium-sized
18 cheese cubes
12 slices thin bacon, cut into 3rds

Quarter and core the apples and then slice each apple into thirds, lengthwise. You should have 36 apple slices.

Slice each cheese cube in half. I used a combo of pepper-jack and colby-jack (what I had on hand) and the pepper-jack makes for a decidedly spicier end product, but either are tasty ways to go.

Pair up an apple slice and a bit of cheese and wrap with the piece of bacon. You don’t want thick bacon here as it’ll take too long to cook. Dividing each slice in thirds (I just slice through the whole package, makes it easier) means this recipe takes just under a pound of bacon.

Broil the packets until the bacon is crisp on top. Some of the cheese will cook out, but enough will be left behind to lend flavor.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

This was, incidentally, the step in the days process that showed the oven for the fickle fiend it is. It had worked fine that morning to bake pie and cornbread, and I’d turned it off by noon. Come around 3:30 and I guess it resented being woken from its nap or something, as it refused to heat/broil/or do anything of use.

Thankfully we have a toaster oven. If it had been larger we could have cooked the casseroles in it, but it’s on the smaller side (just large enough for 2 hamburger buns, split, to give you a mental picture). It took 3 batches to finish the apples, but it got the job done.

Once we found counter space for everything and sat down to eat the rest of the evening went as usual. Everyone eats, we settle in to watch a movie (The Avengers, this year), and someone makes a goofy comment or 2 that has us laughing days later.

That someone is usually Mom.

It’s good to have traditions.

Geek Food Alert!


Do you know what today is? It’s Pi(e) Day!

Okay, sure, the offical National PIE Day is January 23, but on March 14, geeks everywhere celebrate our own PI Day.

(And for the numerically disinclined, Π = 3.14159, so when the digital calender reads 3.14, we see Pi!)

This happens every year, of course, but what usually happens is I always remember too late to do something for it. Not only did I make it a point to have it on my calendar at the beginning of the year, but I scheduled it enough in advance that not only will we have pie for dessert, tonight, but I baked the pie early enough to blog it!

Our pie is a double-crust mincemeat (it was already in the pantry, I planned ahead, but only so much) baked in a false-bottom tart pan for easy serving.

A squared mincemeat pie for Pi Day

And, yes, my pie? Are square 😉

Are you doing anything special for Pi Day?

PS: Our friends at Lofty Pursuits would like to remind you that tomorrow, March 15, is National Egg Cream day. Never had one? Find your nearest soda fountain and give one a whirl!

Almost Mardi Gras, Are You Ready?


I know this week’s highlight is Valentine’s Day (aka Singles Awareness Day for those not coupled-up), and while I’m still deciding what sweet treat to make for Tuesday night, my mind keeps wandering a week forward and thinking Mardi Gras.

Which means, of course, that next weekend will be time to start up the dough for King Cakes.

a trio of King cakes

Last year's small, medium and large King Cakes for home and work

from a post way back in 2009:

The King Cake is a coffee cake decorated for the occasion in green (for faith), gold (for power) and purple (for justice) and with a wee plastic baby, silver or gold coin or bean of some such inside. Why? Well, it’s heavy on the Christian symbolism: the prize inside is supposed to be the Baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby, coin or bean is, traditionally, the King or Queen of the week and is supposed to host the next party or, at the very least, supply the next King Cake.

Any oval coffee cake will do and many, these days, deviate from the cinnamon brioche tradition and use danish pastry filled with cream, fruit filling or chocolate. Yum! I tend to stick with the eggy brioche because it’s just so good the way it is, and the crunchy sugar on top is the best!

According to Rima and Richard Collin’s The New Orleans Cookbook, the King Cake should be made with a coffee cake dough of choice that uses about 4 packages of active dry yeast. So, the first time I made it I went to my go-to brioche recipe from Nick Malgieri’s How to Bake, which uses 2 packages of yeast. So I doubled the recipe. Despite the fact that Malgieri’s recipe makes 2.5 lbs of dough. I made 5 lbs of brioche. I ended up with 2 ginormous king cakes that overflowed my sheet pans, not to mention my counter space. Use only a single batch of the recipe below and you’ll probably still have enough for 2 normal size cakes.

Brioche Dough
(by Nick Malgieri with my paraphrased directions)

1 c milk
5 tsp (2 env) active dry yeast
1.5 c all-purpose flour

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 lg eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2.25 c all-purpose flour

For the sponge: Heat the milk until warm (seriously, you don’t want it over 110 or you could kill the yeast, so just slightly warmer than body temperature) and (off the heat) whisk in yeast and then the flour, cover with plastic wrap to protect against drafts and let sit for 30 minutes.

For the dough: Cream the butter until it’s very soft and fluffy, beat in the sugar and then one egg. Alternate flour and the remaining eggs, one after the other, until everything is incorporated. Mix in the risen sponge then knead for 5 minutes (or let the dough hook of your mixer go at it for 2 minutes). Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, let the dough rise for about an hour, punching down the dough periodically.

Punch down the dough once more, then place it in an oiled bowl, turning the dough over so the surface is lightly coated. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 4 hours or overnight. It’s going to rise so use a big enough bowl to accommodate it and don’t be surprised if it goes all ‘blob’ on you and pushes the top of that super-large rubbermaid container completely off–just means your yeast was really healthy!

After four hours or overnight, take the dough out, punch it down and knead it a bit to get the extra air out, and divide the dough into 2 pieces for one big cake or 4 pieces for 2 normal sized ones.

Now, if you want to fill your dough with anything, that’s up to you. Filled or not you want to roll out each piece of dough into a log shape and twist two of them together and then arrange the twist into an oval, gently pressing the two ends together. Sprinkle the ring with colored sugars and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the bread is golden and done (thump the bottom of the loaf and if it sounds hollow, it’s ready).

Alternately, you can simply sprinkle the dough with cinnamon sugar, bake, and then drizzle the cake with a powdered sugar icing and then top with the colored sugars. (But the crunchy baked sugar really is one of the best parts!)

After the cake has cooled, insert the bean, baby or coin in through the bottom of the cake (make sure no one is looking) and serve to a group of friends. Sure, you can bake a bean or coin inside, but I usually don’t. It’s just as easy to wait until it’s cool (and make sure you clean that coin well before adding it to any food!).

Now, if you’re serving this cake in the morning, coffee will work well enough to wash it down (but at least go for a good, chicory blend or an all-out cafe au lait) but if you’re off for the day or out for the evening, wash your King Cake down with the quintessential New Orleans drink: the Hurricane. You can find a mix in many liquor stores or specialty shops, but Chef Rick has a from-scratch Hurricane recipe that will most likely treat you better than any powder ever could:

Hurricane Punch

1 ounce white rum
1 ounce Jamaican rum
1 ounce Bacardi 151 proof rum
3 ounces orange juice, with pulp
3 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 ounce Grenadine
Crushed Ice

Combine all ingredients, mix well (shake or stir). Pour over crushed ice in Hurricane glass. Garnish with orange or pineapple ring and drink through a small straw for maximum wind speed.

Also, his olive salad recipe is the best I’ve found short of taking a trip to Central Grocery for a jar, which isn’t exactly convenient when you’re 4 states away and craving a Muffaletta

If You’re Looking for a Christmas Breakfast Idea…


This waffle recipe I was sent, recently, might be one to try.

As it happens, I was making up my Christmas list when a recent submission came in and it got me to thinking: I love waffles but haven’t owned a waffle iron in years. (I think I gave Mom’s old waffle iron to my brother at least 5 years ago.) After reading Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Orange Waffles with Burst of Cranberry Topping”, an iron went on my list.

RLB Orange Waffles

Normally I’m not one to pass along someone else’s recipe without testing it myself (especially since it’s in service of promoting an appliance/manufacturer I’ve never used), but Ms. Beranbaum’s recipes hold major sway with me–her Cake Bible was one of my major references when I was branching out from cake mixes to scratch cakes and teaching myself as much about the pastry arts as I could before I was able to enroll in Culinary School.

Burst of Cranberry Topping

(includes weight measurements for key ingredients)

  • 1 cup water (8 fluid oz.)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar (10.6 oz.)
  • 3 tbsps. Cornstarch (1 oz.)
  • 4 cups fresh (or thawed frozen) cranberries (400 grams)

In a medium saucepan, stir together the water, sugar, cornstarch, and cranberries. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stop stirring, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 minute, swirling the pan occasionally. The mixture will be thickened but pourable. Keep it warm or reheat it before serving.

Orange Waffles:

(Serves 4) served here with Chef’sChoice® WafflePro® M852

  • 8 tbsp.  unsalted butter, softened (4 oz.)
  • 2 cups  cake flour (lightly spooned into cup and leveled off) (8 oz.)
  • 4 tsps. Baking powder
  • ¼ tsp.   salt
  • 1 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 2 large eggs (3 fluid oz.)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (8 fluid ounces)
  • 1 cup whole milk (8 fluid ounces)

In a small saucepan over low heat, or microwave safe container, melt the butter. Allow it to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and orange zest until evenly blended. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, and whole milk until well blended. Add this mix, to the flour mixture and mix with a fork just until all the flour is moistened. Stir in the butter just until evenly blended. The batter should be lumpy. Use batter immediately after preparation. For best results, use the Chef’sChoice Model 852 wafflemaker on color control setting four, baking for three minutes (or when steam emitted from plates has largely dissipated). (For other waffle makers check manufacturer directions). Cook the waffles and remove them to the oven racks to keep warm until serving. Serve with hot cranberry topping. Of note, these waffles freeze perfectly and reheat in just a few minutes in a toaster or oven preheated to 300ËšF.

Since we do presents on Christmas Eve with my family I’ll be hoping the waffle iron is one of the presents with my name on it so I can give these a try. If not, I’ll be hitting up the after-Christmas sales for sure.

Recipes and image provided by Chef’sChoice.