Monkey Business

The New Year is upon us! We are very ready to turn the page and welcome a new year, new adventures and renewed spirit. We had a fabulous Christmas this year, well four Christmas celebrations, each just as special as the next. And now with the chaos of the holidays behind us, we’re winding down one of the best ways we know how – together. No work, no cleaning, no chores, no snoring mangoes. Santa was here

So with four Christmas celebrations you can imagine that we did some cooking and ate some delicious food. In fact, we ate a lot of delicious food. The celebrations kicked off at my grandparents’ in rural, central Illinois with some of Grandma’s blackberry cobbler. The next day we returned home to spend the evening with Mike’s family (aka Nana and Papa) and we brought along our Chilean Christmas cake. Chilean Christmas cake

The cake held up moderately in the fridge. It did need some extra icing since it had dried out a touch, but the flavor was still delicious. I should note here too that despite being originally unimpressed with the cake, Miss A ate an entire piece this time around (nuts and all). Hmmm. Then our next celebration…Christmas Eve dinner. just what I wanted

Christmas Eve is our special night. Just the four of us and a big homemade Italian dinner. This year’s dinner was described by Mr. N as “our best one ever.” I think it was the fried calamari (made with fresh squid) that did it for him. While the calamari was darn tasty, it was the other dishes that did it for us – Mussels in White Wine Cream Sauce, Sweet Caroline’s Mushroom and Ricotta Toasts and Chicago John’s Spaghetti Carbonara (with homemade spaghetti that was worth the time investment). xmas morning

I’m still dreaming about that meal! But wait, there’s more. On Christmas Day, after discovering Santa had paid a visit, we packed up some more goodies to take to my mom and dad’s for our final celebration. This meal has traditionally been made up of mostly appetizers with dinner as an after thought. Everyone spends most of the day just grazing the dozens of appetizers while eyeing the over-laden dessert table. This year was no exception. My appetizer contributions were pigs in a blanket (similar to these but more traditional), pomegranate seeds and Rufus’ Cranberry Brie Bites (only I used goat cheese).

As for dinner, my mom prepared a ham and I brought along a butternut squash variation of one of my FAVORITE dishes which is a spin-off of Diethood’s Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything. I typically bring the pumpkin version to Thanksgiving (well at least the last two years now), but since I couldn’t find any pumpkins and all of my holiday preparations were done at the last minute, I relied on butternut squash. I knew it would work, because Ashley’s dish is one of our go-to’s as well. happy kitty

You’re not full yet are you? I haven’t even touched on dessert yet. This year’s table was beyond all others. I think we had at least 20 different desserts on the table including Rufus’ Sugar Plums, Geni’s Cranberry Sauce Muffins, our Egyptian Baklawa, several cookies including Nami’s Sesame Cookies, our spicy pecans and sugary almonds from our Uzbekistan adventures.

It was a cooking and baking extravaganza! And did I mention we did most of the cooking and baking in two days (as well as all the Christmas shopping)! But it’s done and there’s not a thing left to do – except take down the holiday decorations and clean the house. Shoo, shoo! Those are thoughts for another day. Today, there’s nothing left to do but sit back, relax and watch the sun come up. sunrise

So while I’m off to do just that, I’ll leave you with something that may help you to relax – Cola de Mono. Or the tail of the monkey. It’s a Chilean Christmas drink – for the grown-ups – typically served with the Christmas cake. christmas drink

The drink is a blend of milk, coffee, spices and brandy (or Chilean pisco if you have that handy). You start by boiling the milk with sugar, cloves, vanilla, cinnamon and the zest of an orange and lemon. The ground coffee is then mixed in and the mixture is set aside to cool. Once cooled, you strain it into a pitcher, then slowly mix in the brandy. The drink is refrigerated and served cold. tail of the monkey

Now admittedly this isn’t one of my favorite drinks, but I’m not much of a milk, coffee or brandy drinker. So it garnered a 1-spoon rating from me. Mike on the other hand is a coffee drinker. He liked this one, but only gave it 2 spoons based on the fact that he doubts he’d make it again. It’s similar to eggnog, but a more earthy flavor brought on by the coffee. And it’s strong. I will say it did complement the Christmas cake nicely though. Still, if I’m going to enjoy a spiked coffee I prefer the Mexican, Irish or Greenlandic varieties. Cola de Mono

Happy New Year everyone! We’re looking forward to another fun year of blogging (and eating). In fact, we’re really looking forward to the next month or so. We have a lot of fun things in the hopper. We’ll wrap up our Chilean recipes with a warming, winner-of-a-dish; we have a few fun state nights in store for you; a birthday celebration; a special anniversary; and we’ll be winding up our French toast madness in time for March! See it’s already looking like it’s going to be a good year. Cheers to all!

Oh and I almost forgot…look who else showed up for Christmas morning. My old pal, Coyote. If he didn’t scare the pants off me when I go running, I’d say he’s starting to grow on me a bit.

Even my old friend the

Even my old friend the

Happy New Year!

Print this recipe: Cola de Mono

45 comments on “Monkey Business

  1. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    Happy New Year! I thought my neighborhood is the only one who gets coyote’s visits! We can hear them at night and they visit our backyard canyon too. Anyhow, it seems like you had a very nice Christmas celebration with family! Thank you for including my Sesame Cookies. Your Christmas feast sounds so nice and kids’ facial expressions are priceless! Looking forward to more of your amazing dishes this year!

  2. With four different dinners/celebrations, your holiday was certainly filled with lots of delicious food Kristy. Your kids sure look happy with their presents . . . it’s amazing how quickly they can unwrap a large pile of presents, isn’t it? Wishing you and your entire family a wonderful 2013. Looks like you’ve already got lots of delicious adventures lined up!

  3. bakerbynature says:

    The pictures of your kids ripping open their gifts is too previous for words! Love this post, Kristy! Wishing you and your beautiful family all the best in 2013.

  4. Hats off to you for making all those amazing dishes in 2 days! and shopping too!
    hope this new year brings you joy, laughter, success and a little bit of magic too :)

  5. rsmacaalay says:

    We too had an amazing Christmas, I guess everyone did. Now we all have to workout and burn off all those calories. Mmmm do you still have some baklavas left :) I cant get enough of those

    • Kristy says:

      We actually do have some left! I stuck a bunch in the freezer. We’ll see how it holds up. I’m thinking first I need to start that workout plan…then reward myself with one of those in a few weeks. :)

  6. wow that coyote is just gorgeous. What a handsome fellow. Happy new year!

  7. Wow, Kristy.. I’m just speechless that you’ve cooked and baked up so many dishes.. and in only two days! That’s really impressive.. even with two cute little Santa’s helpers! I think I’d actually like that coffee drink.. just think what would happen if Starbucks could sell something like that:) I’d have to call for a ride home I guess! Anyway, it sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas, I hope you and your family have a really wonderful rest of the holidays and all the best in the new year!! xx

    • Kristy says:

      It was quite a busy few days. I don’t think I sat much. In fact I’m sure I didn’t. But we’ve been relaxing a good bit this week to make up for it. Even finished one of my books! I can almost get to your list now. One more to go. :)

  8. your kids faces are adorable! gotta love that christmas excitement

  9. Karen says:

    Your new year sounds like it is going to be as busy and delicious as the past one. Happy New Year, to each and everyone in your wonderful family.

  10. Happy New Year Eat, Play, Love!! I hope you are all doing well and that this new year brings many wonderful things to each and every one of you. Your Christmas Eve menu sounds particularly delightful Kristy and I can’t believe how much cooking (and shopping) you did in the space of 2 days – really – wow! Too bad your special coffee didn’t garner more spoons… I think Greg and I would love it. I’ve been thinking of Fuzzball… losing a pet is really hard especially one who has been with you for so long; he looked like quite the character too; the photos made me smile. Peace to Fuzz and love to the family.

    • Kristy says:

      Thank you Kelly! Your words were very touching. You can see Charlie is getting a bit spoiled this Christmas in Fuzzball’s absence. He even got his own little boat that the kids picked out. And indeed, Fuzz was quite the character – boss of the house in fact. He is missed and it hasn’t been easy to say the least, but we’re finding peace knowing he’s not suffering anymore. Thank you. :)

  11. sonia says:

    Hi There, This post is looking great! It was a real delight to see and learn so much from your each and every post. Hope to see more of your creative endeavours in the new year. Wish you and your family a very Happy and Blessed New Year!!! Happy Holidays :)
    Love & Regards, Sonia !!!

  12. ChgoJohn says:

    Now that’s the way to celebrate Christmas, with plenty of good food and family. The looks on the SousChefs faces as they openend their gifts are priceless, Kirsty.
    That is one good-looking coyote! I’ve seen one not far from here and reports of sightings are on the increase. There have also been sightings of mountain lions but we’ll save that conversation for the New Year.
    I hope you all have a very happy New Year, Kristy.

  13. From the pictures, it looks like the kitty was in Christmas bliss. How cute… surrounded by new toys!

  14. What a Christmas, Kristy! I’d be exhausted with that much celebration, but I wouldn’t mind participating in all the feasting. Your menus and recipe choices sound spectacular. Even John’s hand-made pasta? You have been busy. I have really enjoyed stories from your kitchen and of your family throughout this year. I do look forward to the new year and seeing where your culinary adventures next take us! Blessings to you and your sweet family for the new year, Kristy. I trust it will be a very healthy and happy 2013! oxo

  15. sha'tashari says:

    Whoa, I was getting worn out just reading about all the celebrating. Then…I saw that wonderful photo of the black cat with yellow eyes. It looks just like our Chaos Shadow. Christmas was so busy for us that the day after, when everyone had gone home, I felt a little lost…

    • Kristy says:

      I know exactly what you mean about feeling a little lost after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. :) Fortunately there’s always much to do. Love the name of your cat!

  16. Mary says:

    what a great cobbler – but love the look on your children’s faces (and the cat!) with their Christmas presents! Happy New Year
    Mary x

  17. Dawn says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday – your meal sounded delicious, and I can’t believe all the baking you did!! What are your plans for NYE, I am sure food will be involved!

  18. spicegirlfla says:

    There is a lot of Christmas celebrating in your family! Not to mention, lots of good food!! And I believe that is what the holidays are all about, family, food and fun! The kids look like they had a fabulous time as well…..and wouldn’t we all like to be kids again like that! I’ve heard of infusing milk in spices similar to that and then using it as a “flavored” milk in baking (of course, when appropriately matched with the recipe). I’m not a milk drinker either but was served an eggnog w/brandy drink that I drank it all down with no problem!! Thankfully these holidays are winding down…I need to get back on good behavior! All the best for the new year!

    • Kristy says:

      Me too Linda! Back to good behavior (well mostly good). ;) The kids did have a fabulous time. They bring sanity to the chaos of the holidays. I cherish every moment.

  19. Norma Chang says:

    Quite a celebration, lovely that all the family lives nearby. I too gained weight reading about all the desserts. Your coyote looks very much at home. Wishing you and the family all the very best for 2013.

  20. cecilia says:

    I am always looking for new drinks that use milk, this one looks like something i will really like, I look forward to making it and oh your beautiful coyote, what a dog, ours are much smaller, I hope no-one hurts him, he will be keeping the rodent population in order.. c

  21. Hi Kristy, what a fun extended Christmas celebration! Your Christmas eve Italian dinner sounds amazing. We also skipped the traditional turkey for Christmas and had ham. THough my sister did bake a chicken! Wow, at least 20 different desserts! I think I gained weight reading that comment! LOL Everything sounds great and glad to hear you all had a terrific holiday!
    I too would be a bit freaked out from the coyote! Holy Cow he’s huge!
    Wishing you and your family a Happy Healthy New Year!

  22. That cobbler makes me hungry every time. So flattered you tried two of our recipes. Your whole line up looks amazing and all those gifts! What a great time for all.

  23. Eva Taylor says:

    What an amazing four days, did you get turkey? We only got turkey once at JTs dad’s retirement home; Christmas Eve at my brother’s was cancelled because the kids came down with the stomach flu and it went through the entire family. They were so disappointed, I told them that we’ll have Christmas at our place in January when everyone was well. Turkey and all!
    I’m looking forward to the French toast extravaganza!
    Happy new year to you and Mike and the kids!

    • Kristy says:

      Hi Eva! No turkey this year. We usually only have that at Thanksgiving. Christmas is more Italian foods, pork and ham. We did make a Christmas goose one year with Mr. N. That was fantastic! I’m sorry to hear about your brother’s family and the stomach flu. It has been going around and it’s so awful. Miss A had a high temp the other day. Then it was just gone. Very odd. At least you’ll get to extend the celebrations a bit longer. I always think January needs a bit of fun added to it. :)

  24. sallybr says:

    What a fun post to read! You guys do Christmas like pros, no fooling around – 20 desserts, MAMMA MIA!

    I look forward to 2013 with you guys, at least on the virtual setting – the most adorable family in the blogosphere, with a coyote visitor to boot. HA!

    • Kristy says:

      I’m telling you – he’s becoming part of the family. ;) Thanks so much Sally! Yeah, we don’t fool around when it comes to dessert. You should have seen the spread. I get a sugar coma just thinking about it. ;)

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