WIAW–What I Ate Over the Holidays

While Lindsey and I were on hiatus for the holidays, I was shockingly lazy.  In a week and a half, my only exercise was one (ONE!) walk.  My usual physical activity was replaced by lots of kitchen activity!  For this WIAW post, I’m sharing some of the best dishes I made and ate while on vacation.

After my matinee performance on Christmas Eve, I hopped on a plane to Southern California to spend Christmas with my aunt, uncle, and parents.  Shortly after walking in the door, my uncle handed me a Cranberry, Gingerly cocktail.  YUM!  I have a bit of a ginger obsession, so this delightful concoction with ginger beer, ground ginger, and a garnish of crystallized ginger was right up my alley.  It was also a fun, festive shade of red.

Great way to kick off the break!

Great way to kick off the break!

Christmas morning began with coffee and mimosas.  After opening presents, we sat down for an delicious brunch.  My mom and aunt had prepared a Sausage, Fontina, and Bell Pepper Strata the night before, so we just had to pull it out of the refrigerator and bake it in the morning.  The creamy fontina cheese balanced the spicy Italian sausage wonderfully.  It was a delicious, savory dish.

Sausage Strata

Sausage Strata

We can’t have savory without sweet, so we also prepared Maple-Poached Pears with Ricotta and Pistachios.  These tasty pears could be served as a dessert as well.  They were so good!  The crunch of the pistachios was a nice contrast to the soft pears, and the ricotta kept the dish from being too sweet.  I will definitely make these again.

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

With beautiful food and beautiful weather, our table for Christmas Brunch looked lovely!

The table

The table

My main contribution to Christmas Dinner was a Gingerbread Layer Cake with Candied Kumquats.  I think I may need to bake this cake annually.  It looked great, and tasted even better.  The cake was moist and full of flavor.  The spices came through nicely.  The cream cheese frosting included a bit of caramel, so it ended up being a lovely cream color.  It was a sweet and creamy,  and complemented the ginger and molasses flavor of the cake well.  The candied kumquats were difficult to prepare (Thanks Mom and Aunt Kris!), but were delicious!  We used the leftover kumquats to top off a fruit salad the following morning.

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

My parents and I came home to Texas a few days after Christmas, and were later met by my sisters and their husbands.  Before they arrived, I met some old friends for a coffee date.  Someday I want to be able to make latte art that looks this good!  Props to the baristas at Buon Giorno for making this lovely latte.

Soy Latte

Soy Latte

The first morning the whole family was home, we did Christmas Round 2, complete with another Christmas brunch.  We prepared another strata, this time using broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms, and bacon.  We served a fruit salad and sweet breads with it.  Lindsey and I each prepared a bread the evening before.  She made Banana Bread, and I made Spiced Pumpkin Bread, which I modified to make a bundt instead of 2 loaves.

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

That evening we had a blast at our annual holiday party.  As usual, we prepared Caprese Sticks for our guests to munch on.

Platter of Caprese Sticks

Platter of Caprese Sticks

The full spread for the party

The full spread for the party

We enjoyed leftovers and what Lindsey referred to as “the obligatory Mexican meal” for the next couple days.  The last night the sisters were in town, we had a special New Year’s Eve dinner.  Lindsey made a delicious Roasted Parsnip Soup with Walnut Pesto for the first course.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

We also ate roasted chicken with mushroom gravy, roasted vegetables, and a potato medley with rosemary.

First course

First course

I had so much fun with my family, and loved having the opportunity to cook together again!  It was the perfect way to wrap up the rollercoaster year of 2012.  I look forward to sharing more good food with good friends in 2013!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Happy Eating and Happy New Year!

-C

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Holiday Memories and Recipes

Christmas is coming!

Christmas is coming!

As you probably noticed from our Thanksgiving post, our family goes all out for the holidays.  This year, Christmas is going to be a little different than normal, since I am performing until Christmas Eve, and both sisters will be spending the big day with their in-laws.  Mom and Dad didn’t want to be home alone, so I will be meeting them at my Aunt’s house in Southern California.

The table will be set for less guests than usual, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be having excellent meals!  My aunt already sent out the proposed menu for Mom and me to weigh in on.

Proposed Menu, Christmas 2012

Proposed Menu, Christmas 2012

Looking at these incredible suggestions, I started thinking about some of my favorite recipes from past Christmases.

One of the best desserts was a Tipsy Spiced Fruit Tart with Buttermilk Whipped Cream.  Lindsey and I made this delicious recipe from Southern Living back in 2009.

Tipsy Spiced Fruit Tart

Tipsy Spiced Fruit Tart

In 2010, we started our Christmas dinner with a delicious Arugula-Orange Salad with Pomegranate-White Wine Vinaigrette.  This salad had a wonderful, fresh taste, and beautiful, festive colors.  It looked great on the dining table!

Beautiful salad for Christmas Dinner!

Beautiful salad for Christmas Dinner!

A tradition that we’ll be continuing this year is our family Holiday Party!  After Christmas, the whole family is convening in Texas for our 12th (I think) annual holiday party.  Over the years, we’ve provided food at the party through cooking, catering, and/or Costco.

Party 2009

Party 2009

For the past 5 or so years, we’ve always had a big platter of Caprese Sticks.  This simple appetizer is always a huge crowd-pleaser.

Caprese Sticks

Caprese Sticks

We also always do a special cocktail.  A few years ago, we made Champagne Mojitos, but my poor brother-in-law got so worn out muddling enough mint leaves for 80+ cocktails, that we decided to do something more simple in later years.  One of my favorites is “Special Cider”, apple cider with bourbon.

Big Sis with Champagne Mojitos

Big Sis with Champagne Mojitos

I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with this year!  Do you have any holiday traditions or favorite holiday recipes?  We’d love to hear about them!

Happy Eating!

-C

P.S. If you have not yet entered our Awesome Bar Taster Pack Giveaway, it’s not too late! We will choose and announce the winner tomorrow morning.