While the Grinch stole Christmas, I commandeered it. Or rather, the Christmas menu. In my family, Christmas lunch or dinner is always delicious, but it’s still simpler than Thanksgiving. The reason is after all that damn shopping, wrapping, tree-trimming, and listening to 49 covers of the same Christmas song, who the hell wants to spend all day in the kitchen?
Well, if you wait until Christmas day to even start cooking, and still want a yummy dinner by the time your stepdad comes home from work at 6:30, you still wind up spending all day in the damn kitchen. But at least in my case, I spent it avec ma mère.
I may have commandeered the menu, but like all those chicks who said no to Casanova, my tenacity was not really unwelcome. My mom’s been stressed out and worn down by work, family junk, and last-minute Christmas shopping. So while she took over the turkey and stuffing, I planned the rest of the menu. Oh dear Lord save us.
When planning a menu, I like to think of what sensations the occasion reminds me of. When I think of wintry Christmas, I think of warming spices; zesty, jewel-like citrus; cold, crackly forests; and a bunch of time spent lounging in an oven. With a little thought and web-surfing, my menu came together…
Oven-roasted + curry powder = double yum. I left off the nori to avoid scarring my suburban American side of the family. My creamy substance of choice was cream cheese with a dollop of sour cream.
I’m sick of goopy, “wtf I’m not a dessert?” sweet potato casserole, and more inclined to devour the simple goodness of a roasted sweet potato. These lovelies just had a toss with olive oil, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. The post-oven topping, however, was my lazy-ass version of maple butter. I know traditional maple butter is made by boiling down the syrup, but I had no time…and was scared I’d royally mess it up. So I blended 2 parts butter to 1 part maple syrup, added a little salt, and microwaved. It took a couple of refrigeration before it would stay fully mixed, but in the end, it worked.
My mom made the stuffing but we were having problems getting it to really “pop.” We tried more salt. We tried balsamic. We tried sage. Nada. Finally, I suggested Worcestershire sauce, but we were out, so I used some soy sauce. Still not the most orgasmic stuffing, but the soy sauce definitely gave it some poppage. I’ve never really liked stuffing in the first place though…it reminds me of soggy croutons, the dumbest salad addition ever.
For some great flavor, I put together a citrus-based fruit salad, with oranges, apples, and pineapple. I topped it with some crystalized ginger, lemon juice and a dash of salt. I guess sometimes simplicity is best, because this was the only dish that had no leftovers.
We also has some biscuits and mashed potatoes (stepdad just has to have them) but they are boring. Oh, and we had a turkey, but my stepdad butchered it the millisecond it was done, so all photography would have been gory. And turkey’s not too exciting either.
Then dessert. Boo-ya. As Oh She Glows Angela’s pumpkin pie brownie was so savagely devoured at Thanksgiving, I popped back there for some Christmas ideas. They came as sharp as ginger and black as sin.
My parents do not keep a vegan pantry, but it was easy to sub in eggs and oil/butter when needed. For the chocolate cake (based on Angela’s Healthy Blueberry Chocolate Glaze Cake), I used cherries instead of blueberries. Angela suggested adding banana for moistness, but mine weren’t ripe enough, so I used leftover pumpkin from the gingerbread. Perfect solution! The cake came out like a super-moist brownie. Glazing was fun.
As for the gingerbread (based on Angela’s Pumpkin Gingerbread)…whoa…this has to be the best dessert to pop out of my oven ever. Deliciously moist, nippy, sweet, and just dense enough to say “RAWR I am WINTER!” Just like Angela said, the frosting really added to the bread…and I usually hate frosting. My mom also had the awesome idea to add some crystallized ginger to the top. I think, next time, I’ll add some to the batter itself. I’m a texture whore and the crunch of ginger AND pecans sounds delicious.
These desserts went extremely well together, because the chocolate cake was not very sweet. It was a nice shot of dark chocolate that balanced out the sweetness of the spiced buttercream. I think, if I were serving it just by itself, I might even add a white chocolate glaze to make it a little sweeter and more crowd-friendly. If I didn’t have vanilla ice cream, that is ;-).
But it would be unfair not to mention my dad’s side. My dad and stepmom would rather go out. So for Christmas Eve we went to Flemings, my favorite restaurant. Yeah, there are probably better luxury steakhouses, but Flemings has this amazing atmosphere, the silkiest filet mignons, and really delectable sides. It’s our Christmas Eve tradition! For the first time my stepmom joined us.
As many of you know, my stepmom and I have had our differences. From battles over kitchen space to family-wide drama. But we’ve really mended our relationship over the past few months. Do I forget her forcing me to give away my dog, throwing me out of my house, or getting involved in stuff that was not her concern? I don’t really forget stuff like that…but it takes far too much energy not to forgive.
At Flemings, usually I get the filet mignon. Tonight, for variation, I tried the broiled veal. Yummiest baby cow I’ve ever had. I also had French onion soup, a side of their famous chipotle mac ‘n cheese, and steamed lemony spinach. I’d show more photos, but the lighting was
so bad it just wouldn’t be worth it.
Then I had one of my favorite desserts EVAR. Get ready for this plunge into hedonistic, sinful decadence.
The Molten Lava Cake! This is a gut buster in the most delicious way possible. It’ll turn chocolate haters into chocolate slaves.
Afterward, while they went to midnight mass, I got elfing it–by making Christmas cookies!
My stepmom got Peanut Butter Cookies, based on Angela’s Soft Peanut Butter Cookies.
I added some chocolate or jelly to a few of them. I also made some homemade Nutterbutters, using graham crackers, peanut butter, and a dash of nooch.
My stepdad got Pistachio-Raisin Macaroons, based on Rawmazing‘s Almond Cherry Macaroons. I baked them in the oven just enough to toast the coconut. They are delicious–I made half with cocoa, half with vanilla.
No one was hungry enough for them until breakfast the next morning. Yeah, bite us, cookies for Christmas breakfast.
Oh, and I am no longer classifying myself as a shitty baker. I got in plenty of practice over Christmas, since I’m not spending money on baking materials in London. A few things to pop of of my oven this Christmas…
My mom’s favorite cookies are sugar cookies. She’s been under a lot of stress, so I put aside my sugar cookie prejudice (boring things!) and made How Sweet It Is Jessica’s Butterball Cookies. I chose this recipe largely because the dough didn’t require refrigeration. And they are quite yummy. I tried a few and had to rethink my sugar cookie racism. Then my family ate them all and I could only further ponder the question over…
More peanut butter cookies! Again, based on Angela’s Soft Peanut Butter Cookie recipe. Chewy and soft pwns crunchy. The little bugger on the right is what happens when you bake one of Jessica’s No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies. The rest of that batch went into the freezer, then my sister’s tummy. She said they were the best cookies I ever made, until she realized I used up most of the graham crackers to make them.
So those were my edible adventures over Christmas. But more importantly, Christmas is a time of giving and gifts…mostly gifts. So look forward to Part II: The Loot