Well, we had ourselves a bit of a day yesterday (I am writing this on the day after Christmas). I love the feel of Christmas morning with Lola. It’s quiet, calm and filled with the joy of the day. We usually have our coffee in front of the tree, open our presents, maybe have some kind of fancy breakfast and just relax. We did that this year, but a bit of an abbreviated version. We knew everyone was coming over later and we had to get everything in order. Our trip to Connecticut on Christmas Eve meant we couldn’t get much done beforehand, so we knew that our morning would be cooking and cleaning. But still, we had some nice quiet moments together and soaked it all in before we switched in to work mode.
I started off by making a pumpkin pie. That may have seemed an unusual place to start, but it was National Pumpkin Pie Day and I had an obligation to get one ready. I was using a recipe from Paula Deen, who I kind of figured knew a thing or two about good pies. It was pretty easy. Mix some cream cheese with pumpkin puree, add in some sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, half and half and of course butter (it is a Paula Deen recipe). I poured it all into a pre-made pie crust and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, I looked to see if it was ready. It was supposed to be set in the middle, and I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but it was definitely still jiggly in the center, so I put it back in for another 20 minutes. Then another 20. I wasn’t sure if I had overcooked, but it had still been wobbly in the center. Eventually it started looking like it was done to me, so I pulled it out and let it cool. It looked a little dark (although the crust looked fine), but overall the pie looked pretty good.
Meanwhile Lola was on a vacuuming tear and getting everything ready. I kept futzing around the kitchen cleaning off counters, cleaning and setting up the area for drinks, etc. Lola and I make a pretty good team. She works in one direction and I work in another and we come together at the end. We are a good balance. We had a moment of high tension, but cooler heads prevailed and we went back to getting it all ready. By the time three o’clock rolled around, the house was looking beautiful, inviting and warm and we were ready for our holiday guests.
We were hosting Lola’s sisters and they all arrived about the same time. There was Becky and Jeff along with Molly, Tara and Ben, then Cherie and Pete with Wavy, Brix and Calix. Pete was actually finishing up the Christmas rib roast at his house, so he and Brix would be coming a little later. Katie and her family were having a bit of a day themselves, so they were celebrating at their house as their schedule was a bit up in the air.
We started off with some great appetizers including some bourbon bacon BBQ meatballs that Jeff had made (which were as good as they sound, maybe even better). I made some bacon wrapped crackers which was the third time I broke out that recipe over the last two weeks, but they are still a favorite. Then Tara broadened her portfolio to include a shrimp scampi dip which as good as you want a scampi dip to be (garlicky and buttery goodness in every bite). Pretty impressive all around. I had made a drink called the coquito which was billed as a Puerto Rican Coconut Egg Nog. I got the recipe at Blithewold Mansion when we took the holiday tour. They had little cards printed out with the recipe on them and I am still not quite sure why they were featuring this, but it looked tasty. It’s made with rum, coconut milk, condensed milk, water and cinnamon. I poured it out over ice and served them up and they seemed to be a fan favorite. Lola said this could be her new favorite drink, so I am sure we will see them again.
Pete arrived at about 4:30 as all people should: with a giant rib roast in his hand cooked to perfection. That set the troops into action for dinner and we all gathered around the table. Pete carved the roast beast which was cooked to perfection. He also hooked us up with some au jus and some horseradish dipping sauce. Cherie had made her famously awesome cheesy Brussel spouts casserole which we lost out on over Thanksgiving. I had cooked some cheesy scalloped potatoes which I had put in the oven around noon because I have screwed up on making the potatoes before and I didn’t want to take any chances. I also made the now standard fare of Paula Deen’s corn casserole (which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to step up your corn game.) Becky made her kale salad which I joked with her about bringing kale to the feast, but it’s actually a super tasty salad made with garlic, lemon, cheese and garlic. It was the perfect fresh veggie addition to the meal. I also put out some warmed challah bread as a little shout out to the celebration of Chanukah that we are also having. It was a Christmas dinner that couldn’t be beat. To make it even more festive, Mike and Tina joined us for some dessert. We couldn’t convince them to partake in the meal, but it was nice to have them at our table and joining in on the conversations.
This was a filling meal and by the time it wound down, there were some full bellies and food comas were starting to settle in. Lola adjourned everyone to the living room for coffee, desserts and presents. Our dessert spread was pretty impressive. Becky made two trays of her famous sugar and gingerbread cookies, all decorated in incredible details. Almost too pretty to eat. Tara, a famous cookie maker herself, had a giant Tupperware filled with her chocolate chip and oatmeal delights. We had peanut butter balls and fudge there too. Then sitting atop a cake pedestal was my pumpkin pie (not that it needed to be on a pedestal, it just happened to be on one). The problem was, no one was particularly hungry. Nibbles of cookies and chlocolate balls were taken, but no one was ready for a big dessert plate. I had made some ice cream sandwiches which were actually a big hit (more on this tomorrow), but I couldn’t get any takers on the pumpkin pie. It looked like I’d be on my own.
I sliced a piece on the smaller side and plopped on some fresh whipped cream which I had just made. Pumpkin pie is another pie that I haven’t really tried all that often. I’m sure I’ve taken a bite here and there, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I would be a fan. I was, and am. It’s nice and fluffy and the flavors are warming for a cold night. There’s the perfect amount of sweetness too. I was really impressed with my creation. I tried to get others to join in, but bellies were too full (although I was able to get Brickie and Wavy to try some of the whipped cream). It was really good. I look forward to more today after my belly has recovered.
Presents were exchanged and smiles were made. You could feel the love in the room and everyone seemed to be merry and happy. It was a nice little day. It ended on the early side it felt (everyone was on their way home by 7:30), but that’s how the holidays should be so everyone can end their day in the comfort of their own home and enjoy the peace and quiet of a Christmas night. Lola and I worked as a team again and had the kitchen cleaned up in no time. She did the dishes; I dried and put away. It was a model of efficiency. Order was restored and we got a few more moments to sit by our tree and be grateful for all the wonderful gifts we have in this world. Plus, we have more pumpkin pie waiting for us whenever we need it. Merry Christmas one and all!
Next Up: National Candy Cane Day