Home for the Holidaze

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With almost a month off from school over the holidays, I somehow thought the break would seem long and luxuriously slow-paced. holidaze (13)holidaze (14)I should have known better. Of course, it feels like it all sped by. Time flies when you’re hosting wonderful house guests, starting small oven fires (with some dope granola), slinging growlers at a hopping brewery, making merry with people you love…and having oh-so-much fun. Click to continue reading…

Cookie Swap Thanks and a Product of Canada [Maple Cookies]

Landed in a Ottawa yesterday, in a winter wonderland. Am now cozy by the fire, presents wrapped, holiday tunes on, poodle at my feet, surrounded by family and so happy. Holiday bliss!

[From @tomshap's instagram]

[From @tomshap’s instagram]

Came home to discover treats waiting for me in the freezer — the cookies I received from the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Thank you so much to Megan at the bold baker, Destini at The Healthy Wife, and Lisa at Je Suis Alimentageuse, for the delicious goodies! They were shared with family and friends over tea this afternoon — lovely.
(You can find the recipe for the Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies we sent out here!)

Cookie swap goodies -- thank you!

Cookie swap goodies — thank you!

During the last week of school in Spain, my 7th graders decided to have a dessert party to celebrate the start of the holidays.  Students got together in groups of two and made different desserts that are typical to Spain or Andalucia and several of them spelled out my name on their dessert, which was adorable.  I decided that I should make something Canadian to share and so I treated myself to some pure Canadian maple syrup from the biggest department store in Huelva (I had to search in the international food section!) and made these sweet maple cookies.
This was my first time creaming butter and sugar together by hand — I was so happy that with a little elbow grease these cookies came together easily and gave everyone a little taste of Canada (they were a hit!).

Excited to find maple syrup in Huelva!

Excited to find maple syrup in Huelva!

Maple Cookies in Huelva

Maple Cookies in Huelva

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It’s so nice to be home for the holidays — definitely the best Christmas gift this year, by far! Merry Christmas to you all, I’m off for my long winter’s nap! xo

Visions of Sugar Plums [Maple Sugar Plum Baked French Toast]

SONY DSCOne of the things that defined the Christmas season for me (and perhaps our entire household) almost all through elementary and high school, was our annual performance of The Nutcracker. My twin and I went to the same ballet school and every year around Thanksgiving, parts would be assigned to excited little dancers, rehearsals for the ballet would start, and Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score would start playing through our house. Honestly, I don’t think I could ever get sick of that music, but I could see why our two younger brothers and parents would groan when “Nutcracker season” started for T and I.

The show really became a family affair — my parents shuttled us to and from rehearsals, my mum helped us behind the scenes, and my dad even got on stage for a few years as one of the “guest fathers” during the opening scene. I wasn’t a particularly impressive ballerina –T was a much better dancer (he’s danced professionally, so ooobviously he’s the better dancer in this twin duo) and had prominent solo parts; I was happy enough to get my bits on stage and be part of the show. Although one year, when they couldn’t find a man to play the comedic role of “Mother Ginger” as they usually did, guess who ended up as the lady who was supposed to be in drag? This is what happens to tall, not very serious ballerinas…it’s a good thing I can laugh at myself.
It’s been several years since our Nutcracker days, but after going through countless rehearsals and performances, I’d bet that both T and I could remember the steps from the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.SONY DSC

These aren’t sugared plums in the traditional sense; they’re coated in maple syrup and tossed in brown sugar, so I think they earn the name (plus it’s oh-so-festive!). The recipe is adapted from this Classic Baked French Toast that was part of our Mother’s Day brunch back in May. Any type of baked French toast seems like a pretty lovely idea for an easy holiday morning treat; throw it together the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning. I hope you enjoy it and merry Christmas eve!

Classic Baked French Toast from Mother's Day

Classic Baked French Toast from Mother’s Day

Maple Sugar Plum Baked French Toast

HDH: Christmas Time Is Here!

There really is no “hump day” this week.  This week is awesome.  After a wonderful weekend in Paris, I had a long day of work today, and am heading to Berlin tomorrow to meet my mum!  Our plan is to sightsee and go from Christmas market to Christmas market… I am so excited.  I love the holiday season, and with all that has been going on this autumn winter has practically crept up on me — I can’t believe there are only twenty days until Christmas!  Christmas time is here!

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Chrismukkah

Ottawa finally woke up to a snow-covered wonderland yesterday after many worried that we would have a green Christmas for the first time in several years. Luckily, Mother Nature pulled through and the white stuff is adding some sparkle to the holidays.

Dunlop exploring in the snow during his first winter.

I’m sure you know how it is with the holidays — you make all these plans, and there’s never enough time. I had a list of recipes and treats to try, outings and decorating plans, but inevitably the majority falls to the wayside as I spend time with family and friends instead of running around…but, really, that’s ok!

A challah wreath with gingerbread holly

Braided challah dough

Although everything is celebrated in a pretty secular way in my house, we do like to have some hybrid Christmas/Hanukkah traditions. It makes for a pretty tasty holiday!

With all the hustle and bustle I will post the recipes later (but most of these treats are just simple munchies)…enjoy!

Letting the gingerbread men cool down.

Dreydl dreydl dreydl, I made it out of marshmallow!

Candycane marshmallow hot chocolate dippers!

One of our gingerbread houses...this one came with Rudolph and Frosty !

A happy hot choco ! (Made for me while I was studying by my awesome little brother)

So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, have a great Festivus (for the rest of us), and keep warm in this last week of December!

And, if I may be so bold as to suggest some holiday music, this playlist is pretty versatile. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!!

the BEST gingerbread

There is so much I love about the holiday season but a house smelling like gingerbread is definitely at the top of my list. I go a little gingerbread crazy: loafs, muffins, cakes, and of course, cookies…it’s a recipe for holiday cheer.

My mum has been using this gingerbread cookie recipe for the past decade or so, and it never fails.  We’ve used it for straightforward cookies, (very yummy) tree ornaments and gingerbread houses. Festive, and oh-so-delicious! See the recipe here: Enjoy!

The loveliest (and yummiest!) ornaments on the tree.

Roll the dough on a piece of parchment dusted with flour.These cookies don't spread when they bake, so you can fit lots of them onto the baking sheet.

This recipe is easy to halve or double (or triple!) so you can make lots and they freeze well for a month or two! (Possibly longer, but they never stay hidden longer than that in my house…)

The perfect treat to go with a hot holiday drink.