Sharing a few photos from our family Christmas! This year, Aunt Esther (my sister), Uncle Jeff, and Lucas surprised the girls by coming down for the week of Christmas. They arrived around 0530, so they went to bed in the guest room downstairs. When the girls woke up, I had them go to the guest room, under the guise of getting some craft supplies out of the closet. They were so surprised and happy to see their aunt, uncle, and cousin in the bed!! I did not take a bunch of photos, because this year I set the intention to put the phone down and actually enjoy the Christmas activities. To be PRESENT. It was lovely. Lots of laughter and noise, playing, visiting, and activities. Here are a few I did manage to snap...
Decorating Christmas cookies! I think, they ate more cookies that week then in their entire lives!
For Christmas Eve, we had our traditional meal of Cream of Broccoli soup - from Old Salem, NC recipe book - and a fresh, homemade loaf of bread. It is THE yummiest soup ever. Very creamy, filling, and warming. I would probably rate this in my top four soups of all time. I promise you will love it. Even my brother-in-law, who firmly declared he "hates cream of anything, but I will try it just for you", loved it. The key ingredients to this recipe are NUTMEG and WHITE pepper. Yes, you read that right! Nutmeg adds such a warming, soothing, spiced hint of flavor to the creaminess of the vegetable soup. And, the white pepper adds such a different flavor profile than black does. This soup is also easy to adapt to vegetarian, which my sister and her family are. I substituted vegetable broth, in order to meet their dietary needs. I did not get a photo of the soup, because it was devoured before I thought of it! Here is the original recipe:
Cream of Broccoli Soup (from Cooking in Old Salem)
1/2 pound butter
1/2 pound white flour
1 quart of chicken stock
2 quarts whole milk
1 quart half and half
2 pounds fresh broccoli
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or 1-2 drops Young Living Nutmeg Vitality essential oil)
Dash cayenne pepper
Roughly chop broccoli (stalk included) and simmer in chicken stock until well cooked. Drain, reserving stock, and chop cooked broccoli very fine.
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Then add flour and stir until butter is absorbed by the flour; reserve. This is your roux.
In another large stockpot, heat until simmering, the chicken stock, milk, and half and half. When simmering briskly, add the roux, stirring vigorously so that lumps do not develop. (I like to use a large whisk.) Add the finely chopped broccoli; simmer until thickened and season. Serves about 12.
The photo above is another one of our Christmas traditions, that I have not done in several years. Every Christmas Eve, after our Christmas Eve "feast", we would have Moravian Sugar Cake around the Christmas tree!! My sister really motivated me this year to recreate some of our holiday traditions. So, after our traditional Cream of Broccoli Soup - also a recipe from Old Salem - we had this! You may remember I mentioned Old Salem before in this post. It is a simple, Moravian dessert that came to this country with an early wave of immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The secret ingredient is mashed potatoes, which makes the cake moist with a good crumb. Eat a slice while it is still warm from the oven with a cup of hot black tea or coffee with LOTS of cream. The Old Salem Winkler's Bakery recipe is below:
Winkler's Moravian Sugar Cake (from Cooking in Old Salem)
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons powdered milk (dry)
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes (dry)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted and cooled butter
3 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup melted and cooled butter
Add yeast to warm water and sugar. Set aside until yeast bubbles. Add next seven ingredients plus 1 of the cups of flour. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. With a wooden spoon, add two remaining cups of flour. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to grease top of dough; cover and let rise until double - about one hour.
Punch dough down and put in a greased shallow pan, about 17"x12"1". Let rise 30 minutes. Spread evenly in pan and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Make shallow indentations with fingers and dribble with last 1/2 cup of melted and cooled butter. Let rise 30 minutes and bake until golden brown - about 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees.
The original, heirloom recipe is a lot shorter and easier, in my opinion, but it does involve cooking and mashing real potatoes first. Here is the heirloom recipe:
Heirloom Moravian Sugar Cake
2 1/4 teaspoons active, dry yeast
3/4 cup cooked mashed potatoes, room temperature
3/4 cup milk, room temperature
1 egg, room temperatue3/4 cup sugar
3 to 4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into slices
Butter two 8-inch square pans. Mix yeast and cooled potatoes together and let sit for at least 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. Stir the sugar, milk and egg into the yeast mixture. Whisk together the flour and salt. Add the flour to the dough in half cup incrèments until you have a soft, but not sticky dough. Work the melted butter into the dough. If it gets too sticky, add more flour. Divide the dough between the two prepared baking pans. Cover and leave to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Cut the brown sugar, cinnamon and butter together with a fork to blend. After rising, use your knuckles to make indentations in the tops. Scatter the sugar-cinnamon-butter mix over the tops. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned.
Snuggles with two of my girls after opening presents...
The day after Christmas, the adults took a much needed break and went out for a bit, while the children stayed at home with a sitter. We headed downtown to see the seasonal, Christmas display at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden - "Majestic Holiday Magic" was the theme this year. They use real flowers, trees, and natural materials to decorate the majority of the 19,000 square-foot display. It featured a 18-foot tall Queen Bellisima, a 42-foot Christmas tree - harvested from the woods near Mt Shasta, CA - and decorated with 2,500 ornaments, along with the queen's 30-foot ice castle with rotating guards, the queen's 22-foot Cinderella-style carriage pulled by four white horses (that you could walk through), and a big family of polar bears made of carnations. I cannot remember all of the stats, but some of the botanicals used in the display were:
There were 28,00 poinsettia plants throughout the display.
The horses were covered with rice and poppy seeds.
The carriage’s exterior was covered with 1,000 pounds of tapioca pearls.
The carriage wheels contained 300 pounds of brown and gold flax seeds.
The carriage fenders were coated with black lentils.
The Ice Queen’s torso sits atop a flowing skirt made of 600 orchids, 1,800 hydrangeas, and 2,300 palmetto leaves.
Mama polar bear (the one with the Coca-cola scarf) is made of 10,000 white carnations!
It is truly magnificent to see each display throughout the year in person. The photos never do it justice. And, the scent of all the flowers just fills the entire space. And, I look forward to seeing the new display that went up on January 6!
This piece was in the back corner, and is much larger than this photo appears. It was around 10'x14'!
There was a little motorized train going around the bottom of the tree, but with all of the people, I never managed to get a photo of it...
Her dress was breathtaking...with the overskirt being made of palmetto leaves and the underskirt and bodice made from hydrangeas and orchids!
All the roses on the bridge...
Afterwards, we went for an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Cornish Pasty Co....
If you have never had a pasty, you are missing out on life! If you do not know what a pasty is (have you never watched The Great British Baking Show?!?!), here is a brief history. The Cornish Pasty originates from Cornwall (Southwest England), and can be traced back as far as the 1200’s. Mining was once a thriving industry in Cornwall, and at that time pasties were baked by the wives and mothers of the tine miners. Pasties were made with a thick crimped edge along one side so the miners could use the crimp as a handle to hold on to while eating. The miners' hands would often be covered in arsenic from the mine, so the miners would discard the handle when they were done. The crusts were never wasted though, as many miners believed that ghosts, or ‘knockers’, inhabited the mines, and the leftover crusts would keep these ghosts content. Traditionally, pasties were made with different fillings at each end. One end containing meat and vegetables, and one end with a sweet filling. The sweet end would be marked with an initial so the miners knew what side to eat first. Today, Cornish pasties are filled with steak, potatoes, swede (rutabaga) and onions. At one time, Cornwall had nearly 2000 flourishing tin mines, but by the 1880’s tin mining had become a rapidly declining industry. At this time, Cornish miners began emigrating to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for copper mining bringing pasties with them to the United States.
The Cornish Pasty Co. is a friendly gastropub, in the Arts District of old downtown Las Vegas, featuring a wide selection of pasties and Cornish food, a load of flavorful craft beers, and served in a casual, pub-style atmosphere. The space features reclaimed wooden church pews, an open kitchen where you can watch them making your pasties, and low, ambient lighting. AND, they serve PG Tips tea - I may just be most excited about that! (ha) But, seriously, if you want some British comfort food that will fill your belly with warmth and an excellent selection of beers and ciders, this is the place to go.