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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy New Year!
Print this recipe: Cola de Mono