Friday, December 23, 2011

More Holiday Times

It's almost Christmas! I have a little more baking to do. So far, I made the white chocolate and craisin cookies, some fudge, some cereal bark, and some sugar cookies.. one batch decorated Hanukkah themed, and the other decorated Christmas themed with my neighbor and her kids tonight.

My sister and I had fun making these last night. Hopefully the kids at the Hanukkah celebration my parents went to tonight enjoyed the cookies.

This is our tree. It's so nice to look at when it's all lit up at night.

Hope everyone's having fun getting ready for Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Treats: White Chocolate Chip & Cran-raisin Cookies, and Hanukkah

So, I'm beginning my festive season of baking with white chocolate chip and cran-raisin cookies: a sweet, healthy treat reminiscent of winter and fall at the same time. The sweet, snow-like white chocolate chips are a perfect complement to the tart, chewy cran-raisins (or "craisins") that are reminiscent of the fall harvest. Mixed with a classic chocolate chip cookie dough, they're one fantastic kind of cookie that has my family and I returning to the cookie jar again and again. Perfect with a glass of egg nog.

On Wednesday, Hanukkah will start. My family and I already had our Hanukkah dinner at church last week, where we had latkes and grape juice, and shared stories and songs with our friends. We played dreidel, too.

If you've never played dreidel before, the rules are quite simple. Everyone, to start, gets maybe ten tokens of some kind, whether it's pennies, or in the case of last week, dried macaroni. First each person puts one token in the middle of the table, or the "pot." Everyone takes turns spinning the dreidel, a four-sided top that has a different Hebrew symbol on each side, and whatever it lands on is what you have to do with your macaroni. If it lands on "Gimel," you get everything in the pot. If it lands on "Hey," you get half of what's in the pot. If it lands on "Nun," you get nothing. If it lands on "Shin," you have to put two tokens into the pot (three, counting the ante). After each person takes their turn, everyone has to put one token into the pot. Whoever has the most at the end wins. My sister won when we played last week. I may just have to challenge her, as there are still eight nights of Hanukkah left.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recipes I Love

Whenever I find myself stumped on what I should make for dinner, Mel's Kitchen Cafe has the perfect, fun, creative, easy idea. I've made her Garlic Tuna Pasta with Asparagus, her Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken, her Skillet Chili Mac, her Tuscan Macaroni and Cheese Bake, her Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, her Chicken and Rice with Coconut Milk and Pistachios, and most recently, her Hot Pizza Dip Bites. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. I just love miniature versions of things, packed with all the same great flavor. I made mine with a bunch of different toppings: turkey sausage and olive, chicken apple sausage, and turkey pepperoni.

Definitely the cutest recipe I've seen in a while. My family enjoyed them very much, too. Looking forward to trying another of Mel's fantastic recipes soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More NOLA/ Thanksgiving

Well, besides the Po-Boy Festival and admiring the nature and architecture, I did some other things while I was in New Orleans. I went to Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream Parlor in Midtown with my friend who lives in that area, and we got some Italian cookies and some gelato.

I didn't have my phone with me because it was charging at my friend's apartment, so I didn't get a picture of the beautiful display of pastries under the glass. I did, however, get a picture of the beautiful display of cakes and other goodies at Whole Foods, on Magazine Street, where we went next.

Whole Foods is amazing, it's like Trader Joe's but even better. They have all different kinds of wine, fancy cheeses, international/healthy foods and a large selection of fruits and vegetables. They even had wine and cheese tasting samples inside the store. I bought some Camembert which I enjoyed over a few days with some crackers and blackberry jelly, plus some tangerines.

A visit to New Orleans would not be complete without some adult beverages. I enjoyed a variety of things: whiskey and coke, a Pimm's cup from a jazz club on Frenchman Street, a bellini flavored margarita from the little mall by the river, and a cosmopolitan at Port of Call, a little pub a few doors down from the place where I was staying.

They have great ambiance, candles on the tables for lighting and a big fish tank to watch as drinks are enjoyed. They make it feel like being inside a ship at sea. 

Thanksgiving was great, too. My mom and sister and I shared the holiday in Palm Springs, CA with my great uncles, my second cousin and her family, my uncle, aunt and cousins, and some other relatives and friends. There were about 20 of us all together. My great uncle was the host, and he had to specially order tables and chairs so there would be enough room for everyone to sit. It was like being at a restaurant. He even has his own bar.

Someone was making drinks, and I requested a martini. I usually like my drinks sweet, but sometimes a nice martini is the perfect choice.

We also had all kinds of lovely appetizers... bacon wrapped figs (amazing idea I will have to make for my own party one of these days), cheese spreads and crackers, and caviar pie with crackers. 

And of course, the main event: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, home made creamed corn, and an assortment of other delicious side dishes. It was very nice.

Now I'm back in my normal routine at home, starting to get ready for Christmas. Maybe we'll start decorating the house this weekend, and soon I'll be baking a bunch of cookies and other sweets!