Holiday Round-up

Happy holidays! While we’ve prepared for the holidays for weeks now, I’m still not quite ready. Fortunately the shopping is done. Now we just have cooking/baking, cleaning up and wrapping to do. No worries though, it will all get done. It always does. For as long as the to do lists get this time of year, it never seems to stress me. I love the holidays. I love the traditions, the memory making, the family celebrations, the laughter and the love. And we’re already off to a good start. old school xmas tree

Last night was the first of our four celebrations, our traditional Christmas at my mom and dad’s. Would you be surprised that there was enough food to feed the whole neighborhood? It makes it hard to believe I have to cook more food! I’m having a hard time even thinking about it, I’m still so full. Here’s a few of the gems that adorned yesterday’s holiday table:
Cranberry Bruschetta
Cranberry Bruschetta

Spicy Maple Walnuts
Spicy Maple Walnuts

An Uzbek treat that seems to have become a regular at the holidays now, Sugar-Coated Almonds.
sugar-coated almonds

And of course Christmas isn’t complete without mom’s Oatmeal Cookies.
Mom's Oatmeal Cookies

As for tomorrow night, it’s our special Christmas Eve dinner. Mike, Mr. N, Miss A and I will all sit down for an intimate dinner, we’ll open some presents (the kids usually exchange with each other on Christmas Eve), we’ll put on our new Christmas jammies, grab some cookies and milk and pile into the car for a Christmas lights drive before tucking the kids into their warm beds to await Santa’s arrival. It’s my favorite night of the season. xmas eve

On tomorrow evening’s menu is a special family recipe, but not one of our own. We’re making the Bartolini Lasagna. You can’t go wrong with a dish from Chicago John and his clan. In fact last year, Chicago John’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara was the star of Christmas Eve dinner. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Bartolini recipes are becoming a Christmas tradition of their own.

Then it’s Christmas Day and the children will be up bright and early (At least not as early as my sister and I used to arise – sorry mom and dad!). We’ll spend the morning opening the goodies from Santa, lounging about in our jammies and listening to Christmas music. We’ve got hot cocoa and mimosas lined up to go and we’ll be serving them along with a batch of one of our most popular recipes from the past several years, the Maple Bacon Biscuits
maple bacon biscuits from Vermont

The family will pop in after 1 p.m. and we’ll serve hot breakfast dishes all day long. The kids will likely still be in their jammies, unless we head out to sled, and we’ll have a slow, lazy day with our loved ones. sledding

But wait, there’s one more! This treat from Egypt has also become a staple at our holiday meals and we’ll be making this for the big day as well. Next to the oatmeal cookies, it’s one of Mike’s favorite desserts, the Egyptian Baklawa. I can smell the orange blossom water already. Mmmm!
Baklawa

Needless to say, we’ll be good and full come Wednesday night.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday, a Merry Christmas and an amazing New Year. Thank you all for following us here at Eat, Play, Love. We’ll be sharing a warming, healthy soup for the New Year and then launch back into cooking around the world. Until then, may you all enjoy peace, love, happiness and health throughout the season and the New Year. Happy holidays! Mike, Kristy, Mr. N and Miss A

Just Desserts – The Dessert Basket

Today is the last post from our Chopped Challenge 2013. And what better way to celebrate and spread some cheer than with desserts. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as much as we enjoyed the event. I have to say this last round was just as delicious as the rest and was by far the kids’ favorite. Our ingredients for the dessert basket came to us from Dawn at First Look, Then Cook – Mangoes, Pretzels, Bacon and Agave Nectar. Dessert basket Continue reading

Gratitude.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and even though I try to be grateful throughout the year, I still find myself overwhelmed with thanks this time of year. So I’m postponing our Canadian vacation recipe for a special Thanksgiving treat.

Even though, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, there have been many things this year that have snored the mango, there are so many more for which I am thankful. It goes without saying that I’m thankful for Mike, Mr. N and Miss A. I thank my lucky stars for their health and happiness every day. I’m also thankful for my wonderful friends, neighbors, mentors, co-workers and of course the many friends I have come to make through this blog. My life is richer with each passing day. Continue reading

Good Things in Small Packages

This is our final birthday post of the summer. We’ve been finished celebrating for a few weeks now and are just about ready to get back to our international and stateside cooking…just in time for school to start. Where did this summer go?! (Well, maybe we have some idea where this summer went.)

Miss A’s swim lessons.

Anyway, as many of you may remember, the kids get to request a special birthday meal and dessert as part of their birthday celebrations. Mr. N requested Sesame Chicken and his rather elaborate homemade birthday cake. Well, Miss A took it a little easier on me this year. She wanted pasta in a cheesy sauce and a cherry crisp. Pasta sauce and pies/crisps are totally in my wheel house. They are the two food groups that I LOVE to cook and often do without a recipe. They are totally in my comfort zone. Continue reading

The Cake

Thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes. I had a great night with my family. The kids spent the evening in Grammie’s craft box making me bouquets of flowers, cakes, ice cream and decorative plates. They had so much fun! My dad worked the grill, as the sun finally poked its head out. He made a delicious barbecue chicken with Vidalia onion bbq sauce. It was super juicy and grilled to perfection. The whole evening was perfect – lots of great food, laughter and reminiscence.

In the kitchen with my dad. Now he’s a climbing apparatus for my kids!

But now on to why you came here today. The cake. It’s not fancy and it’s not a batter from scratch, but my goodness if this isn’t the best darn cake out there. Well, maybe there are better ones, but you’ll never convince me otherwise. It’s so moist and so darned full of wonderful pumpkin and spice flavors, and it’s covered in cream cheese frosting! Continue reading