I love the holidays. But at the same time they can be challenging. Last week I set off for home with a twinkle in my eye about the four days of rest, relaxation, cocktail parties, presents and time with family I was going to enjoy. In truth, I didn’t sit down for four days.
My Christmas vacation was full of said parties, gifts and family but also a blur of errands, baking and post-Christmas shopping. (Have to stock up on wrapping paper and bows for next year! Even if it’s snowing!) Weirdly enough, it did snow … at Hilton Head Island of all places. That’s especially rare since most years I’m wearing short sleeves on Christmas Day in 70s-degree weather while grumbling about how it needs to be colder. I got my wish this year.
Anyhoo, about the baking. I crossed off a few culinary challenges from my list and added some new items to my repertoire, including:
- my first-ever cheese ball: cream cheese, onion, green pepper, pineapple, rolled in almonds. It was much easier than I expected, and it tastes better than it sounds.
- Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls, which I made for all the families on Christmas morning. Deee-lish.
- Benne cookies, using a “Joy of Cooking” recipe that I tweaked
- another round of Scottish shortbread
- Cranberry-orange relish, at my grandmother’s request
I also made another batch of Giada’s limoncello for my aunts. There’s a story there, but let’s just suffice it to say that they enjoy it. There were screams around the table when they opened those gifts, which I hope someone captured on video. If you’re going to make this limoncello, use 100-proof vodka — it pulls out more lemon flavor, apparently.
Every family has food rituals and dishes that just make the holidays. One of ours is my mother’s pound cake. She made two this year, but somehow I neglected to come home with any leftovers. Hmph.
Last year I discovered a recipe that I was sure would become a tradition. It was a hit, but I didn’t make it this year since our sweets table was already buckling under the weight of too much dessert. My aunt bought a similar, frozen Cheesecake Factory cake this time, but my cousin said he thought my cake was better. So, perhaps it will be resurrected next year. In the meantime, here’s the recipe if you feel inspired to try it out:
|Our red velvet-white chocolate cheesecake during Christmas 2009.|
Beware, the word ‘decadent’ was likely invented because of this cake. But it’s easy to make, and neither the cake nor icing are too sweet, so your mouth won’t pucker and you won’t feel the need to convulse from the sugar high. It’s a perfect balance.
Tell me, what did you bake/cook/eat over the holidays?