Breakfast with Santa

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Posted December 23rd, 2011 in Holiday, Posts

As a child, Christmas morning was magical.  That feeling of coming into the living room and finding the presents that were left by Santa Claus can never be duplicated.  We left cookies and milk and there were always just crumbs left.  Stockings always had tangerines and walnuts along with lots of small gifts like socks, underwear, toys.

Every year we have traveled to my parents for Christmas. You have to be pretty tricky to pull off the Santa Claus thing when you are not at home.  It was always stressful and I always had to be pretty prepared, hiding things in trash bags, using different wrapping paper.  By the time I arrived I was usually exhausted and just happy to be relaxing in my childhood home.

However, one Christmas my brother threw the curve ball that I have been mad about ever since. His darling daughter, my beloved niece Jessica (8 years old at the time) informed me on Christmas Eve that Santa Mouse would be coming riding on the sleigh with Santa. Santa Mouse’s job was to bring jewelry, and not just costume jewelry either-FINE JEWELRY. Since my children would be finding their Santa gifts along with their cousin it would be pretty obvious that no jewelry had been left for them and clearly Santa favored their older cousin and she had the inside track for the good stuff.  Of course I couldn’t let that happen.

This tradition, started by my brother caused me to make a last minute trip to the mall on Christmas Eve (which no one should ever have to do) and look for jewelry that would pass for fine to my 3 and 5 year olds without causing additional debt to my single mom credit card.  Needless to say, this was not one of my favorite Christmas memories but we have laughed about it a lot in subsequent years.

I share this story for one reason only. If you have the chance to have a quiet little Christmas morning for two, complete with Cherry Cinnamon Rolls and Rudolph’s Nose cocktails in front of the fire, then and only then should Santa Mouse have visited.  Fine Jewelry is not for children after all.

Merry Christmas!


Christmas Dinner Tradition

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Posted December 19th, 2011 in Holiday, Posts

Almost every year of my life I have traveled to Southern California to my parent’s home for Christmas. That we celebrate with my parents and my sister’s family is the tradition. What we eat and when we have the big meal has changed over the years depending on who else is there and where else somebody has to go.  For most of my life my mother has cooked numerous meals over the course of the days surrounding the holiday.  When I picture my mother, I always picture her standing in the kitchen preparing food for hours, just like her mother before her. She is a GREAT cook!  But she turned 85 this year and it is hard for her to stand for hours like she used to. So the last few years my sister and I have taken some of the meals on.  So we don’t really have a traditional meal anymore except of course the breakfast casserole my sister makes for Christmas morning.

Dinner has been a variety of things-my niece and brother made a mushroom stuffed chicken breast one year and we have done pork roast several different ways. Once we even had a selection of appetizers each made by one of the girls.

It is challenging to cook a big dinner in someone else’s kitchen, even your mom’s. The oven is fancier than mine, and I don’t always know where she keeps various kitchen appliances and tools. But we make it work and the collaborative effort has become something of a tradition as well. My daughter, Kaitlin usually helps me plan the menu and serves as sous chef.  Mom runs around getting us this and that.  I don’t think it is very relaxing for her but she doesn’t complain. I think she likes spending time with us but it is hard for her to take a supporting role in the kitchen.

This year we decided on a Pork Roast with Raspberry Mustard Glaze, a Carrot Gratin, green beans almandine and a lovely winter fruit salad with arugula, grapefruit, Asian pears and pomegranate seeds. It is labor intensive because it should be individually plated but it looks beautiful and, after all, it’s Christmas!  For dessert I plan to raid her Meyer Lemon tree for a Meyer Lemon Cake. If you have followed this blog you know I am all about a colorful plate and I think we hit the mark.

We will be missing some family around the table this year but we will appreciate the ones we have and send our love to the others because love is what Christmas is really all about.




Holiday Traditions with a Twist

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Posted December 9th, 2011 in Holiday, Posts

I was listening to the radio today while baking and there was some sort of debate about the political correctness of Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays.  It struck me that what is universal is that whatever we celebrate as humans, it is a reason to gather and eat. Society has spread out. Most of us don’t live in very small towns with our extended family all around so the holidays give us a reason to gather.  Whether you celebrate Hanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice everyone makes a meal and it is usually a whole lot fancier than a quick something in front of the TV.

I was chatting with my neighbor, Tom, the other day and he was telling me how their family worked out the dilemma that most families face-how to please everyone. They drew straws for time slots and his family got Christmas Eve morning. He was initially mad. It seemed like the worst. WHAT- no dinner??? Tom is a great cook from a family of cooks so he improvised.  He and Vicki make breakfast for all the kids, grandkids, adult kids, in laws, out laws- whoever is there. They do it short -order style with menus and everyone gets to choose what they want. They have fancy breakfast cocktails for the adults and fun beverages for the underage. It sounds like a blast and I secretly wanted an invite.

It inspired me to offer up some different options for the blog the next few weeks. Today I am featuring dessert, next week a fancy dinner idea and lastly, brunch and a breakfast cocktail.

I made a Yule Log Cake with Raspberry Filling-something I have wanted to do for years.  This will work for those celebrating Christmas or just gathering for any winter holiday dinner.

I also made a Hanukah cake.  I read an article in this weeks Relish, an insert in the Wednesday paper, from a food writer named Tamar Haspel.  It told the story of Hanukah and the reason Latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) are a tradition.  It is all about the oil that never ran out. This writer posited that since the oil was the point, making an olive oil cake for dessert in place of the fried potato pancakes could serve as a kind of riff on tradition.

Not being Jewish, I’m not sure it would fly in serious traditional households but it sounded good to me, so I made an Olive Oil Cake Topped with Poached Plums. It is fragrant with oranges and the texture is lovely.  I happened to have a menorah because my youngest daughter, Allison, went through a “world religions” phase when she was around 10.  Our neighbors were Jewish and she insisted on celebrating Hanukah for years, right alongside Christmas.

That is my definition of politically correct.


Olive Oil Orange Cake with Poached Plums

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Posted December 9th, 2011 in Desserts, Holiday, Recipe


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

½ cup orange juice

Zest of one orange

¾ cup light olive oil

Poached Plums

1 can Oregon Fruit Purple Plums, drained, reserve ¼ cup syrup

2 Tbs orange juice

Preheat oven to 350degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round pan. To prepare cake, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine sugar and eggs and beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy about 3 minutes. Mix in orange juice and zest. Reduce speed to low and add olive oil in a slow stream. Add flour mixture and stir just until combined. Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 35 minutes until golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile heat the plum syrup and orange juice over medium heat until reduced by half and thickened.  Pit and chop the drained plums. When the syrup is ready, stir in the plums coating with syrup.

Cool the cake for 5 minutes and then invert on a cake plate. Top with poached plums and serve warm.


Chocolate Yule Log Cake with Raspberry Filling

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Posted December 9th, 2011 in Desserts, Holiday, Recipe

Cake ingredients:

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

¾ cup flour

1/3 cup cocoa

¾ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

Filling Ingredients:

1 can Oregon Fruit Raspberries, drained (reserve syrup for cocktails!)

1 stick unsalted butter

1 tsp lemon zest

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tbs whipping cream

2 tbs raspberry syrup

pinch salt

Frosting Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbs whipping cream


With electric mixer, beat eggs at high speed until very thick. Gradually add sugar; beat until smooth. On low speed beat in milk and vanilla. Whisk together in a separate bowl flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; fold into egg mixture just until smooth. Line a greased 15 ½ x 10 ½ x ¾ inch pan with wax paper and grease. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 375 degrees 12-15 minutes unitl cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert cake onto a tea towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Remove wax paper; roll up cake with tea towel from the narrow end. Let cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack.  Unroll cake and spread filling evenly over cake, re-roll using the towel to move the cake along carefully separating the cake from the towel as you go.  Let cool completely while you make the frosting.


Cream butter with lemon zest  at medium speed using paddle attachment for 3 minutes. Slowly add sugar, mixing on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add whipping cream and raspberry syrup and beat on med-high for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy.  Remove about ½ cup and set aside to use for decorating.  Fold in the drained raspberries very gently.


Cream butter at medium speed using the paddle attachment for 3 minutes. Turn off mixer and sift 1 ¾ cups of powdered sugar and cocoa powder into the mixing bowl. Turn on the mixer at the lowest speed just until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla, salt and cream and beat for 3-4 minutes.

Cut the log end diagonally and use the cut edges to attach like branches. Use some frosting for attaching. Frost the Yule log cake with the chocolate frosting. Finish by dragging a fork along the log to create the look of bark. Drag the fork around the cut ends to look like rings.  Make a little red and green icing from the reserved ½ cup. You can use this to pipe holly leaves and berries on the log to decorate. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar for snow.



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