christmastime food and silliness

Ventured North to see my family in the ‘burbs. I forget how much my neighbors lose their minds over Christmas decorations. I particularly enjoyed this Peanuts creche.


Malindi and I both got in nice long breaks (and I’m actually here for quite awhile longer since one of my classes has a “field trip” to my home town to learn about national nutrition policy).

Malindi made us this YUMMY dinner one night shortly after we got home- pasta with pumpkin goat cheese sauce.


We’d gone to the farmer’s market and gotten cute Persian-style cucs that morning, which my mom used to make a side salad that went perfectly.


I’ve also gotten some nice visits with other family. Jasper and Alice continued their constant vigilance of neighborhood happenings while we hung out with their humans, my aunt Jeanie and uncle Tim.


And before we knew it it was Christmas Eve! Malindi and I posed amusingly in our festive attire.

Photo on 12-24-15 at 5.16 PM

I thought these festive headpieces had an appropriate level of reverence for a church service celebrating the birth of Jesus (Malindi got these for the whole family and I LOVE THEM SO).

Photo on 12-24-15 at 5.17 PM #2

Sheila joined in the festivities, ish.


The cat suffering continued the next morning when she received her Christmas tutu. Actually, she weirdly didn’t seem to like it- we were expecting her to go ape**** and destroy it immediately but she seemed weirdly nonchalant. Probably knew how pretty she looked.


The gift exchange was as delightful as ever. Two of my favorite things ever are captured in the photo below.

  1. My sister gave me a Yoda onesie for Christmas. This glimpse of the fleece covered thighs is the closest you’ll get to seeing it unless you know me very well in real life, but rest assured that it is incredible and I’ve been wearing it as often as possible. It’s so soft and warm that wearing it is basically like walking around in a portable bed.
  2. My mother and I got each other the same Christmas gift! I loved Mr Rogers as a kid (well and as an adult, OBVI, since he was one of the greatest people in the world ever) and my mom continues to wander the house singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”. So, two Mister Rogers sweater changing mugs were under the tree this year (he puts on his sweater when you pour in hot water!)


We did our usual Christmas brunch tradition at my aunt Kathy and uncle Tom’s house. I was definitely expecting it to be a bit surreal, since last Christmas was the last time most of us saw Chris healthy. It seemed any minute like he was going to come around the corner and start laughing at the toy helicopter, or one of the uncles’ gag gifts. But it was also nice to be around all the people who love him and who he loved. And thank God for family, and all the laughing we do together. And eating, of course. Lots of eating.

That ghostly white arm is Malindi’s boyfriend Eric digging in. My family is Mediterranean and swarthier ūüôā


Kathy did her usual gigantic feast. A gazillion egg casseroles, a whole smoked salmon/oysters/mussels display, lots of yummy crackers and biscuits, tons of cheese, tons of fruit both fresh and dried. Mimosas galore.


My aunt Dena made this cake over which everyone LOST THEIR MINDS. It’s gluten free (Malindi’s boyf Eric doesn’t do the gluten) and it’s basically clementines (boiled down for an hour to condense their deliciousness) and almond flour. Light, citrusy perfection.


We did our gift exchange and my cousin Kate won Christmas. She’s getting married next summer in Mexico (her husband-to-be hails from Puebla) and started pepping everyone up for the occasion by buying all the women Mexican scarves and all of the men… Mexican wrestling masks. Oh yes.


(Photo has been cropped to protect the innocent. I am wearing an awesome Christmas crown because my family always does Christmas crackers)

I would’ve been content to enjoy the Mexican wrestlers, delicious snacks, and board games and then call it a day. Climb in the tub, catch up with my cat.

But, I am a child of divorce, so had to go celebrate with my weird dad, his (sometimes) weird family and a few random strangers who were there for some reason (a foreign exchange student ish, her random friend, and my stepmother Sally’s random church friend).

However, then it ended up being really nice and I don’t know why I was being such a Scrooge. I forget that having random strangers around for the holidays, while seemingly weird, causes my weird relations to behave more normally because other people are watching! (More normally, to be clear. Less abnormally. They are still not normal.)

Lots of food! My aunt Jeanie made lots of contributions all of which were delicious, and Sally’s friend (who turned out to be a wonderful, friendly guest) brought DELICIOUS duck from a Chinese market.

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I decided we needed a green salad so I made this recipe. It was pretty good.


The usual artichoke dip we have at all family holidays (my dad amusingly calls it “his famous artichoke dip” despite the fact that the recipe comes from his ex mother in law).


The day after Christmas ought to’ve been relaxing. Though it was fun, it was also filled with party preparation, because we opted to host our annual post-Christmas pre-New Years family open house on the 27th. So lots of baking and cleaning and so on went down (read further down for more!)

We did break for a suuuuuuper indulgent and amazing lunch. My mom used some smoked salmon (which Kathy generously gifted us as a leftover from the amazing Christmas brunch) to make this gorgeous plate.


That plus leftover salad plus whole wheat pita and hummus combined in the most simultaneously healthy and decadent lunch ever. If I could eat like this every day I bet my health would be superb. (On the other hand, I’d be broke as a joke).


As for party prep- as usual, I went cookie crazy. I love love love making Christmas cookies and have some recurring classics I make as well as newbies. This year I took a fancy to margarita shortbread from Smitten Kitchen. DANG it was good. (Albeit looked weirdly like sliced bananas or plantains, right?!)


I also tried out¬†chocolate peppermint snowflakes. Or, er,rather, chocolate peppermint stars. These smelled like HEAVEN while baking, and were really beautiful and yummy. I also think any time you make dessert you ought to include chocolate because for some people it’s just not dessert without the presence of chocolate. Some of the cookies were topped with traditional peppermint candy canes…


And for some I used this adorable whacky new candy cane flavors my mom found at the store (cake batter, anyone?!) Aren’t these so pretty?


We also made some old classics, including¬†macadamia butter cookies with dried cranberries¬†and my mom’s baklava. Malindi took care of the gluten-free-ers with her pumpkin blondies, and also made carrot cake cupcakes with nummy cream cheese frosting. Also my awesome aunt made the heavenly clementine-almond cake yet again <3<3<3


As for the savory components, we made a ham (bone-in for maximum flavor and moistness) and turkey. We’ve never once gone wrong with this Cooking Light recipe for¬†apple cider brined turkey. Note that the recipe makes enough brine to work with a much larger turkey- this one was almost 22 lb!


Other fun tidbits- lots of carbs (rolls, breads, crackers), and some caramelized onion and mushroom filled crescent rolls made by Malindi that got inhaled shockingly quickly (my sister knows how to Give the People What They Want)


Also went cheese crazy and dip crazy as per usual. This end of the table included lots of yummy cheese from Costco; labneh, taramosalata, and yummy pickled and stuffed veggies from the Mediterranean store…


… and several homemade dips. For the past several years I’ve made¬†muhammara, the pretty red dip at left. My sister made a lovely cheesy spinach and artichoke dip. And people LOST THEIR MINDS over this¬†butternut squash and cheddar dip¬†from Serious Eats that I made for the first time this year. Despite the veggie in its name it is laughably far from health food (it contains a package of cream cheese, 1/2 a package of sour cream, half a stick of butter, and a glorious 8 oz of cheddar). Its flavors are HEAVENLY, both from the lovely saturated fat and from the caramelized onions and butter-softened sage. Sigh.

The table before it had been attacked too much:


I supposed I’ll blog more on health-related things later (if I feel like it, which I probably will) but for now I’m admitting defeat to the power of being home for the holidays. My diet has largely been far from clean and that’s just the way it is. I’m trying to be very consistent about exercise (and may I recommend this for a nice full body workout?) and will get back on board with the blood glucose lowering plan of attack once I’m back in NC. C’est la vie.

How was everyone else’s Christmas?!


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