Happy new year! And new decade! No, I didn't drop completely off the face of the earth, but I did disappear from the blogosphere for the past month because of how insanely busy the holiday season is. Between end-of-the-year madness at work, a freelance editing project, gift buying, and other holiday happenings, I just didn't have it in me to blog. I also was so busy that I really didn't embark on any particularly fun and savory cooking projects, although there was a lot of food involved in my holiday celebrating, natch!
One of my resolutions is to definitely post in here two to three times a week for the rest of the year, and now that things have settled down and I feel less busy, I can stick to that schedule.
My holidays were hectic but good. Christmas Eve dinner is always held at my parents' house, where my mother cooks up a Cubano feast that includes roast pork loin, black beans with rice, and yucca. I can do without the yucca, but the rest of it is scrumptious! We also have some potato casserole, hors d'ouevres beforehand, and dessert, which this year was a Queen of Sheba cake. It looks so impressive but really isn't that challenging to make, especially when you pulverized so many almonds the first time you made it that you have leftovers. I promise that the recipe will be forthcoming! There are a few variations of it out there in online land, but I'd only trust Julia Child's recipe. I do whatever she tells me to do because I know she will not fail me.
I was disappointed because I traveled home early this year in order to help my mother cook for Christmas Eve, only to find that she'd already cooked everything, so all she had to do on the 24th was pop things in the oven. I really wanted to help in the kitchen and learn to do everything so I can one day carry on her cooking traditions for my family, but hopefully next year I can learn instead.
One thing I made this year that was a big hit last year was olive penguin appetizers. This isn't a photo I took, but this is exactly how mine turned out.
Too adorable! And they're also extremely easy to make. You'll need a can of pitted jumbo black olives, a can of pitted medium black olives, a few baby carrots, toothpicks, a baggie, and a tub of whipped cream cheese, which is softer and easier to use than the non-whipped kind. (I use chives whipped cream cheese, which I find adds a really nice little tang.)
Stand each olive up on one end and cut a small panel out of it, maybe about half an inch. (Save the pieces you cut out for a salad or cooking.) Cut the carrots into thin coins, then cut a wedge out of each circle to form the feet. Reserve the wedges you cut out of the slices to use for beaks. Turn each medium olive around to the bottom, where the cross-shaped cut is located, and insert one carrot wedge to serve as a beak. (You may need to trim the wedge a bit depending on how large you cut it.) Spoon some of the cream cheese into a zipper-top sandwich baggie and seal. Use a pair of scissors to snip off just the corner of the bag to form a spout and push the cream cheese down into that corner to use as a piping bag. Fill each jumbo olive's cavity with a dab of cream cheese to form the tummy on the body.
To assemble, insert a toothpick into the carrot coin directly across from where the cut-out wedge is--the toothpick will act as the penguins spine. Slide a jumbo cream-cheese filled olive on top of that with the white facing the cut-out wedge, then slide a medium olive on top with the wedge beak facing forward. Serve to a chorus of, "Ohmigod, that's so adorable!"
These look labor-intensive, but I find that if you just do each step (cut out all jumbo olives, cut all the carrots, etc.) and then assemble at the end, it doesn't take much time. I made about 25 of these in like 15 minutes. They are really tasty too! Stand them up in a cute dish and cover loosely with plastic wrap and they'll keep in the fridge for the day until you're ready to unveil them at night.
More tasty posts to come (including scrumptious Christmas gifts!), but in the meantime: how do you celebrate the holidays? What special meals or traditions do you and your family have?