Tag archive for holiday

Holiday lights and happy cheer



There is nothing quite like a little road trip to bring on the holiday feeling. Tucked up snug in the car with Christmas tunes and plenty of snacks for the drive, things start feeling festive. Recently, we did just that and headed for the hills to the west in hopes of holiday lights and snow in Leavenworth. The timing wasn’t meant to be with the snow, but we did see our fair share of holiday lights. Here are a few sights from the weekend.




It was our first time visiting Leavenworth and the weekend of the Christkindlmarkt seemed like as good a time as any to visit. I’m not going to lie, visions of warm mugs of glühwein were dancing in my head. The holiday lights were festively glowing when we arrived and made for a perfect little stroll through downtown.



What’s more, I also found the Bavarian Bakery, just on the edge of town, with multiple stollen options and thick slices of striezel dipped in chocolate. Just the inspiration I needed to head home and start some baking of my own!

I hope the festive season has found you and yours. It’s hard to not feel festive with one of these gems sitting up amongst the glassware these days! I’m looking forward to being back in this space a little more frequently and sharing the season with you.


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Summer vacation


We are getting set for a little summer vacation around here, so we’ll be away from the blog for a few weeks. We’re looking forward to some good old summertime lounging, picnicking, cycling, drawing, camping and just glorious relaxing while we are away. Check out Instagram to see what we’ve been up to in the meantime (we’ve got some links over here to help you out). See you back here soon!

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It’s not my holiday…


I haven’t always been in the loop regarding Cinco de Mayo. But I am generally pretty excited for any chance to add a party to my routine! I had only just mentioned this to my husband before he started coming up with questions for me—what was I doing celebrating Cinco de Mayo? This wasn’t my holiday, nor that of any of my people. What business did I have poaching someone else’s party? Apparently he is a little more possessive of holiday celebrations than I am. I suppose this might have something to do with the fact that I’ve been straddling two different holiday calendars for years.

Ever since I moved to the US, I’ve been back and forth between various holidays. How am I to handle Thanksgiving with the Canadian holiday in October and the American in November? No matter, I’ll celebrate twice! Is the May long weekend Victoria Day or Memorial Day? They are not the same weekend, but close enough to cause confusion. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t really thrilled to have to give up the extra holidays that seem to pepper the Canadian calendar or answer the now-routine question of “What, you mean it’s not a long weekend for you?”


Perhaps fueled by this shedding of vacation days, I’ve been eager to pick up more. And what’s more, these holidays come with the chance to discover new flavors. First up was Bastille Day or le quatorze julliet—why not throw another holiday into the month of July? It actually fit perfectly with what has become a French-inspired month in our house as we follow along with the epic three-week Tour de France.

So far, I have not been able to connect Cinco de Mayo with any cycling event, which I am sure would help its acceptance at our house. But that might be why they invented margaritas. And while I lack any real knowledge of traditional foods prepared for this meal, I figured that a taco party couldn’t be so far off course. We love those around here. And while I usually favor vegetarian taco fillings, this spicy chicken seems like a special dish to make for a holiday or get-together.


So it may not surprise you, but I am going to take a little break from my Monday post next week. I’m going to be in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., visiting Tina. And if all goes as planned, we’re going to spend a few hours of Cinco de Mayo running a half marathon together. And if that isn’t reason to celebrate, well, I don’t know what else could be! Except for those margaritas…

Chicken Tinga

Adapted from Sunset magazine

This tasty filling works well with tacos or mini tortillas. I liked the fixings piled high on crisp tostaditas, so I am listing that preparation here.

Vegetable oil
16 small corn tortillas

1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoon puréed canned chipotles in adobo*
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken

Finely sliced green cabbage
Fresh pico de gallo
Thinly sliced radishes
Crumbled queso fresco
Avocado, cut into thin slices
Crema, thinned with water so it’s pourable
Cilantro leaves
Limes wedges

Make tostaditas: Heat 1/4 inch oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once oil begins to shimmer, add tortillas to the pan and cook until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes, turning once. When done, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Cook tinga: Spoon 1 tablespoon of hot oil from the tostaditas into a second frying pan. Over medium heat, sauté onion for a few minutes until soft and golden. Add in shallots and salt; continue cooking for a few minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup water, tomato paste, chipotle sauce and sugar and mix to combine. Add chicken. Cook for about 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbling. Add more salt to taste and more water if needed to keep the mixture saucy.

To serve: Set tostaditas on plate and serve alongside the tinga and garnishes.

*Purée the contents of the can and freeze the remainder. It keeps beautifully in the freezer and is so convenient.

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The dyeing of the Easter eggs

egg bowl

No matter what I am baking or prepping in the kitchen, Blaise wants to make a blue version of it. Most often, it’s blue cupcakes. And not just any blue cupcakes, chocolate blue cupcakes. While I am still trying to figure out how to make a dark chocolate cupcake appear sufficiently blue, Easter eggs seemed like the perfect diversion. With the help of a little dye, we could create all the shades of blue he would ever want to imagine. It all started out innocently enough, but little did I realize the complexities of egg dyeing. There were tough decisions to be made, highly saturated liquids to be spilled and room to be made in the fridge for all of those eggs. But back to those eggs…


Around here, we house no sacred Easter bunny myths or traditions. It hasn’t been a careful plan, just a holiday that we have not really spent much time or tradition on. I have always been a fan of a delicious batch of hot cross buns, but I don’t need an occasion for those treats. When it comes to egg decorating, I do fondly remember the tradition as a kid, but I don’t think I’ve revisited that process since my pre-adolescent years. High time, right?

Several weeks back, I found a little mention about making your own Easter egg dye. The colors were lovely—warm and earthy. I don’t quite remember all of the colors pictured, but there was a blue, a yellow and a reddish color that I thought Blaise would like. Plus, I thought it would be the perfect use for a red cabbage that was languishing at the back of the fridge. The question of the dye seemed settled.

But when I got down to the real business of figuring out what we were going to do with all of the eggs, I saw some pretty amazing posts of beautifully dyed eggs. Of course, there were the vegetable-dyed ones that first caught my eye. But then there were the neon eggs and the bright stripes. They were so bright and so cheery that on a recent shopping trip, I all but abandoned my plan of vegetable dyes for a package of glowing neon tablets. But when I got back home and read over the packet, I couldn’t do it. The ingredient list scared me off. The veggie dyes were back on.


What I may have lost in other-worldly egg hues, I made up for in natural ones. I feel particularly lucky in the egg department in that I know people. Yes, that’s right. I get a weekly supply of fresh eggs that I treasure. If I was going to go through the process of making my own egg dye, I was going to color some delicious eggs while I was at it. I even got a special order of a dozen barely blue eggs that already looked Easter-ready. And you can bet we were going to eat them. Hard-boiled eggs are always a big hit at our house. They are easy to throw into a sandwich or a salad and some days, Blaise simply insists on adding one to his meal, whatever it might be. Besides, the prospect of egg salad sandwiches for days certainly didn’t hurt as I was trying to justify all of those eggs cartons taking up space in the fridge with other concerned members of my household.

Making our own dye certainly wasn’t the quickest route for egg dyeing, but we enjoyed the process of watching the colors deepen hour by hour.


And just when I thought my work was done with the blue eggs, that there were no more blue shades to be achieved, Blaise proclaimed that all he really wanted was black. Boys….

Happy Easter!

basket close

While there certainly are a lot of colors that you can create at home, I decided to keep it to just three—red, blue and yellow. The great part is that most of these ingredients are common enough that you could easily add them onto your shopping list if you don’t have them already. Add variety by using different colors of eggs and different dipping times to achieve a range of shades. And if you need more variety, you can hop online and find a few more ingredients to round out your color palette.

blue carton

Vegetable dye

Makes about 4 cups of dye in each color, enough to dye dozens of eggs

1 small head red cabbage
2 pounds beets
3 tablespoons turmeric

Hard boil eggs to your preference and cool.

Make each color in a separate, non-reactive pot.

  • To make the blue: Chop cabbage into rough pieces, about 2-inches wide. Place in pot and add just enough water to cover the cabbage.
  • To make the red: Cut beets into quarters. Place in a pot and add just enough water to cover the beets.
  • To make yellow: Add 4 cups of water to a pot and stir in turmeric.

Bring each pot to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and allow the liquid to cool. Once cool, strain out the vegetable pieces, if any. Place the liquid in a glass bowl or jar and add 1/8 cup distilled white vinegar to each color.

Add hard-boiled eggs to the liquid and allow to sit. One to two hours gives a pale shade. Allow the eggs to sit in the liquid for several hours or overnight for a deep color. Don’t crowd the eggs or you might have light spots where the eggs touch. Place the dye and eggs in the fridge while they sit. Jiggle the jars occasionally to ensure everything gets evenly coated.

Once desired shade is reached, remove eggs from jar. I had the best luck using a second clean jar and pouring the liquid from one jar to the other until it was empty and I could retrieve the eggs. Rinse in cool water and set eggs out on paper towel or a drying rack and let them dry completely. Refrigerate eggs until ready to use.

Last, but certainly not least, these dyes are highly saturated and will stain. Working in the sink seemed to contained the better portion of my splashes, except for the jar of turmeric water that I sloshed all over my kitchen floor. Shh…I don’t think anyone will notice the yellow hue by the sink.


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Get your sparkle on

The holidays always make me think of traditions—the ones that have gone on for years in my family and the ones that I am trying to create for my own little family. And despite the short, dark days of winter, there is something comforting about those holiday traditions that make this time of year most special.

Now that December is here, it seems like the right time to start with a little Christmas baking. Holiday baking has always been a big part of our holiday celebrations through the years. We each have our favorite sweets that appear on the holiday treat tray year after year. But with busy schedules, a massive amount of baking just seems a little too daunting. So over the past few years, I’ve come up with a different approach—weekend baking. I have plenty of time to get something baked and we get to enjoy and share treats all month long. We might not have all of our treats on the tray together, but I think it works out OK in the end. And with a little helper in the kitchen, this special baking time has just gotten a whole lot more exciting. Every weekend, he asks whether we are going to do any baking. I like to comply!

Since baking with a toddler can be a little challenging, er, exciting, I’ve been thinking about what recipes might be best for him to help with. He likes to be hands-on, helping to measure and pour. I thought about gingerbread cookies with shapes to cut out and decorate. I knew that glitter and sprinkles would be right up his alley. But it seems like there are so many steps in that process, baking and then decorating later. It would be too much for his attention span to bear. So when I found this recipe, it seemed to combine the best of all activities in a short amount of time! Decorating before baking? Yes, please!

These cookies remind me a little of biscotti in that they are twice-baked for extra crunch. It also means that fiddling around with the dough to make them perfect is just not needed—great for helpers. Some variety will make for a nice display in the end. They are a perfect addition to any tray of treats and are sure to be a hit with everything from coffee to cocktails.

A few notes before you get started: This recipes calls for cayenne pepper. It makes the cookies spicy in a very good way. My little guy is OK with the amount in the recipe, but adjust to your tastes.  The sugars and sparkles used on these cookies really set a festive tone. Play around to find favorite combinations. Ours was the vanilla sugar—while not the most festive colors, the flavors were lovely.

Spicy Gingerbread Straws

From Nancy Baggett’s recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, December 2012

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1/4 coffee, cooled, or 1/4 water with 1 teaspoon instant coffee

Course sugar or turbinado sugar
Sprinkles or edible glitter

Preheat oven to 350º and position rack in the middle of the oven.

In a large bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, cloves, allspice and cayenne pepper, if using. Mash the brown sugar so there are no lumps are left.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, molasses and coffee and whisk to combine. Pour the butter mixture into the flour and stir well to combine. Knead briefly to mix in all of the flour and make a smooth dough. If the dough is too dry to roll out, add a few drops of water as you kneed. If it is too moist, sprinkle in a little more flour. Divide the dough in half and form roughly into a log.

Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll into a rectangle, about 6 by 12 inches. Trim the dough if needed, but don’t worry about making a perfect rectangle. Remove the top layer of parchment paper and sprinkle with your choice of sugar and glitter. I used about 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of sprinkles. Place the parchment paper back on top of the dough and press the sugar gently into the dough. Remove the top layer of parchment.

Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into thin strips, about 1/4-inch by 6 inches wide. Slide the sliced rectangle of dough, still on the parchment paper, onto a baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for about 14 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned and the cookies are just barely firm when pressed. Using the parchment paper, slide the dough onto a cutting board and retrace the cuts between the cookies and separate them a little on the pan. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough.

Once both sheets are baked and trimmed, reduce oven heat to 200º and place both trays back in the over for 10 to 12 more minutes. Remove from oven and place cookies on a wire rack to cook completely. Store in an airtight contained to help them stay crisp.

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Kale salad

I’m a little hesitant to include salad recipes here because I’m always concerned about getting the dressing right. Salad seems easy, right? Throw a few greens together with some oil, tanginess and salt and call it good. Maybe I’m just being difficult, but I like my salad to have a little more complexity to it. I like to rummage around and throw in a little of this and that. Just ask anyone who invites me to make a salad in their kitchen.

This salad came together due to an abundance of lovely kale and a need for space in the fridge. I know that kale salad is nothing new — you probably made some last week, right?

This recipe takes me back to a salad I made last year — a little bitter, a little sweet. Maybe it is just what a winter salad should be, more substantial than the soft greens of spring. These are the hardy bowls of greens that fuel us through the dark cold months of winter. And in this case, it might be the bowl of greens that off-sets the richness of a holiday meal. Enjoy your celebrations, friends!

This salad brings out the sweet side of fall. The best part is that the kale stands up so well to the dressing, you can make it long before guests arrive or tote it across town to a friend’s house. Feel free to play around with ingredients, the nuts can certainly be changed out to suit your preference. Also, I used pomegranate seeds in my version, but I’ve also made it with dried cranberries, which were equally good. I’m also going to go out on a limb here and say that if there is no pomegranate molasses in your pantry, you’re going to be OK without it. I like it for its flavorful balance of sweet and tart, but it’s certainly not the only ingredient lending those notes. And if you want to make a meal of it, I think a side of wild rice would compliment these flavors very well and make a delicious one-bowl meal.

Kale Salad

2 bunches black kale (also called lacinato or cavolo nero)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Generous sprinkle of salt
Zest of one lemon
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/4-ish teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
Juice of half lemon
Splash of white wine vinegar
1 pomegranate (seeded)
3 or 4 fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup toasted nuts
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and remove the stems from the kale. Roll a stack of about 10 leaves up into a tight roll and thinly slice. Repeat until all of the kale has been sliced. Place the sliced kale in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, a generous sprinkle of salt, chopped shallots and zest of one lemon. Massage the kale leaves until they are well coated with the oil, adding a little more if needed. At this point, the salad can sit and marinate, plan on at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, toast the nuts on a baking sheet in a warm oven set to 300º for about 15 minutes. Stir every 4 to 5 minutes until golden and fragrant. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.

When ready to dress the salad, add the grated ginger, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and white wine vinegar on top of the kale. Give everything a thorough mix to combine. Top off with the pomegranate seeds, sliced persimmon, toasted nuts and toss lightly. Taste and season with a little more salt and pepper as needed.

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Hot crossed

My forays into bread baking started at a young age. Standard production of many loaves of hearty whole grain bread were a weekly occurrence in my childhood. I still fondly recall thick slabs of bread, freshly out of the oven, melting with butter and perhaps dripping a little honey off the corners. At some point along the way, my days of quietly standing by turned into active participation. I’ve been baking something ever since.

One of my first official cookbooks had to have been Baking Bread by Beth Hensperger. While I can’t say that I baked every recipe in the book, I have come mighty close. I started out with the European country breads, moving on through the American breads and settling quite happily into the sweet and celebration breads sections. There was even a picnic section! And even as a high school student, I was planning my weekends around various starters and sponges called for in these recipes. I know, this is saying something about my high school years!

It took awhile, but eventually I found my way to the recipe for hot cross buns. Filled with currants, apricots and citrusy goodness, these fragrant rolls stand out from the crowd. But let’s be honest here – the real standout component to these rolls has to be the icing. It’s true, when you think about hot cross buns, icing is not the first thing that springs to mind. But once you taste these, I think you might at least reconsider.

For me, hot cross buns are not a specific Easter requirement, but more of a spring treat. And that is likely why I try to make a few batches of this recipe before Easter passes me by. But, since we have a little more spring still to come, I hope you’ll find a time to try out this recipe.

Hot Cross Buns with Dried Fruit

Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s book, Baking Bread

It is worth noting that this recipe is nothing short of amazing with Meyer lemons. The season seems to be winding down, but if you can find just one lemon, I think you’ll see what I mean. 

1 cup dried currents
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
A pinch of sugar
3/4 cup warm water (105° to 115° F)
1 cup warm milk (105° to 115° F)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sugar Glaze
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Lemon Icing
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, be more generous if you wish
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the dried currants and chopped apricots in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Using an electric mixer bowl, or a large bowl, combine the milk, butter, sugar, eggs about 1 cup of the flour. Mix for 1 minute to combine. Add the yeast mixture, dried fruits, spice, vanilla and 1 cup more flour. Beat hard for 1 minute or until well combined. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms that clears the sides of the bowl. As with any dough, the flour proportions will vary a little, but go sparingly with the additions to keep the dough moist.

Continue to knead, by hand or in a mixer, until the dough is soft and smooth. Push any dried fruit back into the dough if bits fall out. Continue to add flour, if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until the dough has doubled, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into two equal portions. Roll the dough into a 10-inch-long log. Depending on the size rolls you want, cut each log into sections of 9 or 10 pieces. Form each piece into a round bun and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to rise. Leave about 1 1/2 inches between each roll. Leave uncovered and let rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until roughly doubled in size. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375º. Once the oven is heated, use a sharp knife to cut an “x” into the top of each roll, taking care not to cut much deeper than 1/2 inch.

Bake in the center of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown. You can flip the roll over to check for doneness as well – the bottom should be nicely browned.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. Combine the sugar and water in a small pan and allow to boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Once done, remove the rolls from the oven and arrange on a wire rack. Use a pastry brush to coat with the sugar glaze. While the rolls continue to cool, prepare the lemon icing. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest. Beat with a whisk until smooth. The icing will be a bit firm, but this will help with the piping. Place the icing in a small plastic bag and snip a tiny hole in one corner. Pipe the icing into the “x” in the top of each roll. Let the rolls stand for at least 20 minutes for the icing to set.

These rolls are best enjoyed the moment the icing is set, or at least the day they are baked, so share a few with friends and family.

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A marshmallow world

One of my favorite things about the holidays has to be snow. I’m not going to try and tell you that all of the usual things – family, food and traditions – aren’t high on my list. But when I get right down to it, snow is one of the traditions I don’t want to do without at Christmas. This realization came to me the other night while I was standing out in the driveway with my sister in the middle of a snow storm. Snow was falling fast and thick and we had a couple of inches we planned to clear before calling it a night. Count on a good Canadian upbringing to make you realize that there is just going to be more snow to shovel in the morning if you go to bed in a snow storm.

Layered up in cozy clothes with snow shovel in hand, I thought, “It wouldn’t be Christmas if we weren’t out here shovelling the driveway.” Turns out I have just a few holiday memories tied up in that whole snow shoveling ritual. I don’t know when exactly we were turned loose in the driveway with shovels. Maybe it was a punishment, maybe it was a treat. I don’t really remember. Perhaps we were sent out to burn through some after-dinner energy or maybe to give our parents a few minutes of peace and quiet.

I can tell you a few things though, like the fact that there is a right way to shovel snow in our family. It is very precise and when the shoveling is done, everything looks perfect. There are no wonky lines going here and there, everything is tidy and orderly. And one other thing, don’t walk all over the snow before you shovel – clear a path and walk in that.  Otherwise your footsteps will stick and then it won’t look nearly as perfect! Likely, all of this comes from many winters of experience. When you are expecting a winter full of snow, you have to shovel with some of this in mind. You know that the snow bank is going to be a few feet high and if you know what’s good for you, you shovel accordingly.

For the longest time, the main snow shovel at our house was one of my dad’s creations. A piece of plywood nailed onto some other wooden remnant to make a handle. It was not easy to lift, so for us girls, it was more of a snow pusher. Someone else would have to come along behind and lift the snow, flinging it onto the bank. That shovel was around for years, slowing wearing out at a distinct angle after years of grating against the pavement. Sometime in the last few years, it was retired and replaced with a fleet of more ergonomic options. 

When we’re not out shoveling it, it seems that we like to find activities to get us outdoors. The last couple of years have focused on snowshoeing. Happily, we can virtually strap on our shoes right at the house, so it makes getting out there pretty easy. There is something so peaceful about the snow. Tramping through the woods can be so quiet, sometimes almost too silent. But the towering trees and snowy pathways are always inviting in their quiet way. And although there was not too much snow, we made a couple of forays into the woods.

We’d all string out, single file along the path. And with a few errant picture-takers in the group, there always seemed to be someone running along, trying to catch up. Not to mention a little guy up front who insisted on being carried, no one was really able to set a very daunting pace.

As we made our way home, we came up a party of sledders, making their way into the woods to do some sledding in a clearing. First came the kids, giddy with delight, running up the hills with sleds in tow. But what amused me the most were the adults who came behind. Some carried chairs. Someone else was pushing a giant cooler on a sled.  They were going to have a party out there in the woods. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of the idea of a winter picnic. Maybe I’ll have to think about that for next year! Can’t you just imagine Thermoses filled with tasty soups and hot chocolate? Trade out the chestnuts roasting on an open fire for a few marshmallows and you’d be set!

Snow will always be a part of my fondest Christmas memories. The giant flakes I’d see falling in the light of the street lamp at the end of the drive. The snowbank where we heaved our parents exercise bike for the sake of some goofy photos. The snow forts built on very snowy years. That’s why, in the midst of that snowy downfall, I bundled up my little guy, complete with scarf, hood and mittens, and took him out into the night. Dustpan in hand, he pushed snow with the rest of us. It’s all part of our tradition, after all.


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In search of frisée

Who would have thought I’d be tracking down a salad at this time of year? Here it is, the holiday season with all of the merry and bright business, and I’m seeking out a salad! I suppose it makes some sense, with all of the fancy meals and sweets that seem to take over at this time of year. A crisp salad might just be the ticket.

But I should note that I’m not talking about just any lettuce and tomato salad. Those are best saved for the appropriate seasons, which usually does not pair the two together in my little summer time. Lettuce is at its prime in the spring when small, delicate leaves are a chore to pick, but so worth it! I know that the baby lettuce salad mixes are available at any grocery store, in any season, but more on that later. And tomatoes, let’s just save those for late July or August. They are better that way. In the meantime, I’ll tell you about the salad.

One chilly evening, I sat down with a friend to share dinner. We’ll often share a few tapas to start and just happened upon a Turkish Salad on the menu. A few ingredients were listed – endive, pomegranate, parsley and hazelnut toffee. Could I really have been hooked after that brief description? Seems so…

The salad was so perfect, a balance of everything I could want in a salad. The greens are seasonally appropriate, for me anyway. Somehow the bitterness of endive and frisée speaks of cold weather. The pale greenish yellow is a color that somehow brightens up a winter day, but at the same time, reminds me that sunlight is not the most plentiful! And crunch, so much crunch! The tart pomegranate, the rich green flavor of the parsley, salty olives and my favorite part, toffee! Yes, I may have wanted to get away from the sweet, but a little sprinkle of toffee in my salad was amazing.

I left the restaurant wanting more. Knowing that I’d be tracking down ingredients and recreating that flavor in the weeks to come. But let’s be honest here, I live in a small town. Finding ingredients for something called Turkish Salad certainly wasn’t going to be so easy.

Belgian endive, sure, I can find that. Frisée? Who shops for frisée on a regular basis? I knew I’d seen it before but what were the chances that anyone would be stocking it when I was looking for it? Well, let’s put it this way, I went to every grocery store in town. Some of them multiple times. I talked to anyone working in the produce section, sometimes having to explain just what it was I was looking for. One guy suggested I buy a couple of bags of salad greens and pick the frisée out! It amused me, but it turns out he couldn’t find any bagged greens that included it! At another store, I had a lengthy discussion about the difference between curly endive and escarole. I am not an expert, but it turns out the produce guy might not have been either! In the end, frisée was substituted for the pale inside leaves of curly endive. I wish you more luck!

And don’t let me forget about the pomegranate molasses. It doesn’t really sound like an exotic ingredient, does it? I think anything with the word molasses in it just sounds warm, dark and cozy. But pomegranate molasses is not something in ready supply around here. Lucky for me, I shared my delicious tale of the salad with a friend traveling to Portland for the weekend. And happily, she was willing to go on a mission and came back with supplies for me.

Olives, pomegranates, flat-leaf parsley, homemade toffee, those were the easy ones. Although if I had a little bigger selection of olives, I’ve likely be a little happier. But I had gathered enough ingredients to take a shot at the salad. But before I did that, I wanted one more taste.

So off I went, out for lunch by myself. OK, I took my camera along because I really wanted to take a picture of how lovely it all looked, stacked up on a little plate. The restaurant was empty and I got a table by the window all to myself. Since it was early, the waiter was happy to help with my interest in the salad, answering questions about what type of olives they used, the vinegar and such.

And good thing I went, because I had forgotten a few little details, like the finely diced shallots that spiked the dressing or the fresh green flavor the liberal dashes of parsley left. And I wouldn’t have gotten to taste the golden beets with house made yogurt, citrus and the finest dusting of coriander. But we can talk about that some other time.

This salad might take a little shopping around to compile all of the ingredients depending on your location, but I think it could be just the thing to cure the winter grey. Fresh, crisp and bright, it might even find its way into a holiday meal and be perfectly at home. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

Happy holidays!

Turkish Salad

Adapted from Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen with special thanks to Island and Chris

Serves two

1 shallot, finely diced

4 Belgian endive, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

Small bunch frisée or curly endive leaves, washed and chopped

2 tablespoons flat parsley, roughly chopped

1/3 cup chopped green olives, use a mix of moroccan olives, if you can find them

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Dressing of olive oil, champagne vinegar and pomegranate molasses, to taste

2 tablespoons toffee, I used homemade almond toffee


Peel and finely dice shallot. Let sit for 15 minutes in cold water. Maybe a little red wine vinegar, if you are feeling generous. Drain and pat dry.

Combine the greens, parsley, olives and pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Toss to combine.

Whisk olive oil, champagne vinegar and pomegranate molasses together in a small bowl. Add shallots to the mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste. This will likely depend on your olives and how salty they are. Dress salad and combine well. Arrange salad onto serving plates.

Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of toffee per plate. Serve immediately.






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Winning Christmas

I know, I know Christmas isn’t about competition or winning BLAH BLAH BLAH. I don’t care.

Every year I take part in a Secret Santa gift exchange and gift wrapping competition with friends and this year I decided I was going to win the gift wrapping competition. Now if you too need to win a gift wrapping competition this is a sure fire way to win! Make a gingerbread gift box for your Secret Santa gift. Here is how you do it:

1. Make some gingerbread cookie dough. Chill it in the fridge for a few hours until it is nice a firm. (recipe below)

2. While the dough is chilling construct yourself an appropriately sized base and decide how big you need to make your gift box. You will need to cut out four side pieces and one top. I cut out two 2″x9″ pieces two 2″x12″ pieces and one 9″x12″ piece. Actually you probably should have decided how big you need to make your box before you make the dough. So now you have your chilled dough, a base and some measurements.

3. Cut four side pieces and one top piece. Transfer them onto a cookie sheet and bake as per the directions below.

4. While the cookies are baking start making the icing. I made Royal Icing and it worked rather well for me. The recipe I followed was pretty simple, beat 3 egg white with enough icing sugar to make a nice stiff and glossing icing. This made more than enough icing to ice my gift box. Transfer your icing into a ziplock bag and cut the tip off of one corner when you are ready to start icing.

5. Once the cookies are baked and fully cooled start assembling your gift box, just like you would a gingerbread house using the icing to attaching the walls and finally adding the top last. Don’t forget to put your gift in the box before you put the lid on the box. My gift was a book so, I wrapped it in plastic wrap before I put it in the box to make sure it wouldn’t get icing on it.

6. When you have the walls and top in place decorate the box however you would like.


You will win for sure! I did 🙂

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Trees with Lemon Icing 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

Make cookies: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until creamy, 3 minutes. Add egg and beat to combine. Add molasses and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. With a sharp knife or cookie cutter, cut dough into small 2-inch-wide triangles. Arrange triangles, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are firm and golden at edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.


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