Sweet Potato Latkes – A Christmas Tradition

Do you have any odd Christmas traditions?

Dan and I do. We make ourselves latkes for Christmas Eve Eve dinner.

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No, neither of us are Jewish, and we didn’t have latkes growing up. We think the tradition started when we went to Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago the year we were first married, and feasted on some amazing potato pancakes. We decided to make latkes ourselves that Dec 23rd, simply because we were both off that day and thought it would be a fun dinner to try. The tradition stuck, and we look forward to it as part of our yearly Christmas activities.

We’ve tried a few different recipes over the last five years, and this year we went in a new direction – using sweet potatoes. I saw this recipe on the skinnytaste website and we decided to give it a whirl.

We doubled the recipe and got 4 huge latkes (it was easier to make bigger ones because of the longer sweet potato sticks). We don’t have a heavy duty spiralizer, so we used our mandoline, which cut the sweet potato into long matchsticks. I think the potato was too thick because the egg didn’t quite bind the latke together like I thought it would. Instead, the egg kind of scrambles in between the sweet potato sticks. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. The search for a latke recipe continues!

Well, this bring my Christmas week posts to an end. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my Christmas preparations/baking/traditions with you. I’ll be back to regularly scheduled blog programming next week.

I truly hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

 

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Christmas Eve Orange Cranberry Scones

We spend Christmas Eve with Dan’s family, and we start the day early. Since our big meal isn’t until 2pm, we usually have some breakfast goodies on hand. This year, I made these orange cranberry scones to share.

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I’ve never made these before, so I hope they’re good today! I thought the fresh cranberries added a nice holiday touch, so I decided to go this route instead of the mini chocolate chip or craisin scones I usually make.

I followed the recipe exactly, but I wish I had used orange juice or at least more orange zest in the glaze. Oh well, next time!

They’ll pair well with the morning mimosas we’re enjoying to get into the holiday spirit.

Mini Gingerbread Loaf Neighbor Gifts

I love this gingerbread loaf. I first made it for last year’s Wreath Decorating Party as a last minute snack idea, and I’ve made it a ton since then. My mom even bought me a special pan with gingerbread people on it to use every time I make this yummy bread.

Friends always ask for the recipe, and a few have made it on their own with tasty results. So, when I began to think about what to bake our neighbors this year, gingerbread loaves immediately came to mind.

Each loaf took an hour plus to make though (including baking time), and since I only had one pan, I knew this would become quite a process. That’s when I got the idea to make this loaf into minis. They turned out great!

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I doubled the recipe, and it made 8 mini loaves. I had bought 6 ceramic mini loaf pans in an end of the season sale at Michael’s last year, and knew they would be perfect for this. We had to adjust the cooking time, so don’t forget to do that. The recipe calls for 55 minutes. We started checking on the loaves at 25 minutes, sticking a toothpick in each loaf to see if it was done. They probably spent about 35 minutes in the oven total.

Once the loaves cooled completely, we sprinkled them with powdered sugar, which really adds something to the otherwise spicier dessert.

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Then, we wrapped them in cling wrap, packaged them in Christmas favor bags, and added a tag (find it here – and it’s customizable!) with some curly ribbon.

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It’s a small, simple gift, but the packaging makes it look fancy! I really hope the neighbors like this treat as much as I do.

 

DIY Christmas Dot Wrapping Paper

You guys, I met my goal! All our Christmas gifts were purchased, wrapped, and under the tree!

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How did I do it? Well, once the gifts start accumulating, I try to wrap 1-2 gifts each weeknight once I get home from work. That way, I’m not spending hours over the weekends or on Christmas Eve trying to wrap. We adopted this  method last year, and even Dan commented on how nice it was to relax in the days leading up to Christmas, rather than making mad dashes to the crowded stores for last minute gifts or being overtaken by wrapping paper and bows as you try to get everything done under a time crunch. Instead, we spend that extra time watching Christmas movies, drinking hot chocolate, and baking.

This year, we wanted to try wrapping our gifts with kraft paper. I shared how I played around with painting dots onto the paper, and decided to use that method for all our gifts. This time, I wrapped the gifts first, then painted the dots right onto the wrapped gift. It took a bit longer this time because I used more than one paint color, but I’m really loving the plain brown paper jazzed up with colorful Christmas colored dots.

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We used a couple different kinds of ribbon, to more easily identify the recipient of the gift. The colorful, chevron-like ribbon is for our nieces’ gifts. The red, white, or green thinner ribbon edged with silver are for the adult family members. Putting gift tags on each gifts made them look sort of fussy, so Dan decided to just write out a gift tag on each gift with a red pen.

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That didn’t work so well with the bags, so I went ahead and put glittery Merry Christmas tags on those.

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Aren’t they cute? I found those tags (3 in a pack) in the $1 section at Target!

As for the dots themselves, I just free-handed it. Some gifts have two different colors of dots, some have one. Some have dots in a symmetrical pattern, and some are on a diagonal. I just eyed it up and started dotting, still using the pencil eraser method I used last time.

Just a  few days left until Christmas! I can’t wait to hand these presents out soon!

Glazed Eggnog Cake

Woohoo – it’s Christmas week! Get ready for a special week – daily posts about all things Christmas!

I thought I’d start off with a tasty holiday cake that is much easier to make than it looks – eggnog bundt cake!

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I tried out this recipe a couple weeks ago for my mom’s birthday. She loves eggnog, so I thought of her the second I saw this cake.

Bundt cakes are pretty easy, especially if you don’t have a lot of time for prep or decorating a dessert. You just mix everything together, pour it into a pan, and let it bake. Plus, the pan’s shape makes the cake pretty on its own. The only thing left for you to do is make the glaze and pour it on top!

I was really pleased with the way the cake turned out. It was very eggnogy and super moist. My only complaint would be that it didn’t rise as much as  I thought it would. Many bundt cakes bake up the pan right to the top, but this cake stopped short. Weird, since I used 4 teaspoons of baking powder in the batter. Still, I’d make this cake again. Maybe for Christmas? I’m still settling on which desserts to make for the two Christmases we attend, and this cake is definitely on the short list.

Home (Not) Alone Party

Home Alone has been out for 25 years. Think about that for a second. 25 years. Being just a few years younger than Kevin was when the movie came out in 1990, I thought the movie was pretty cool back then. And I find that every Christmas season, I watch Home Alone more than a couple times.

When a friend of mine told me that she and her husband were going to go see Home Alone in the theater this year (a special showing to celebrate its 25th anniversary), it got me thinking that a Home Alone theme would be a fun way to go for this year’s holiday party.

I announced this year’s theme via a paperless post online invitation with this graphic being the first thing my guests saw.

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I think it sent the right message.

Dan and I watched the movie (purely for research purposes) and thought of some fun ways to include little nods to Home Alone at the party, without requiring guests dress up like the Wet Bandits or Old Man Marley.

We kept things simple, so we mainly used a printer and scissors to make everything, like these Little Nero’s pizzas.

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I thought it would be funny to have Harry and Marv drop in on the party, so Dan helped me create these burglars in the window.

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Side note on that decoration – it will drive your dog nuts. Phoebe sat there barking at the pictures for quite some time.

I don’t have a photo of it, but I found my old Talkboy from the 90s too. I know, the Talkboy was in Home Alone 2, but come on – I had a Talkboy! And no, it wasn’t functional. Sad face. If anyone out there knows how to make the mic on one of those work again, please hit me up!

If I had more time (and energy), I thought of a few other fun decoration ideas I never got around to doing:

– Hanging a couple empty paint cans by a rope in the stairway

– Scattering matchbox cars around the food table

– Leaving out a tarantula looking spider for someone to find

– Setting up a train and attaching a Michael Jordan posterboard cutout to it

As for food, I didn’t snap any pics, but we went with Kevin’s standard food from the movie – a lovely cheese pizza (just for him), mac and cheese, and an ice cream bar (to be eaten while watching a gangster movie). For drinks, Pepsi and adult “milk,” made with whiskey, 2% milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract were on the menu.

I had such a fun night, but really, any night with these ladies is a great one.

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So lucky to have such wonderful friends.

With a little over one week to go until Christmas, I’m looking forward to sharing the last of my holiday posts with you!

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Oprah’s favorite things are fancy. Fortunately, mine are not.

My friends and I decided to do a “My Favorite Things” gift exchange this year. The guidelines are simple – gather some of your favorite things and put them together to create a gift, with the spend limit being about $20.

Now, $20 may not seem like a lot for a gift, but I promise you that it’s more than enough to put together a bunch of small items you love. I came up with many ideas for gifts like chamomile tea, Nutella, Method all purpose cleaner, Weber Grill spices, cashmere blend socks, Real Simple magazine, Uno card game, San Pellegrino Aranciata sparkling beverage, Essie nail polish, Bath & Body Works Linen Spray, and fleece lined tights, but cut that list down considerably.

Here are my favorite things:

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Yup, that’s a cow-shaped creamer. I’ve loved mine for years, and it always get a ton of complements when I bring it out for parties.

The pumpkin butter from Trader Joe’s may not seem like anything special, but it is delicious! Put it on toast. Put it on a bagel. Put it in your yogurt. Use it for pumpkin butter thumbprint cookies. So versatile.

Of course, I had to include some spirits in my favorite things. Though I don’t drink it in the winter, I think my all-time favorite liqueur has to be limoncello. Maybe because it’s from my homeland?

I’m seriously loving small, delicate, blingy jewelry these days. Believe it or not, Lauren Conrad’s earrings line at Kohl’s has some really cute stuff. These dainty and sparkly triangle earrings just make me happy.

Those little candles from Bath & Body Works are such a great little gift to give. People don’t usually buy themselves candles, so I love giving them as little splurges. I went with the Holiday scent, but it was a toss up between that one, Marshmallow Fireside, and Winter.

Big ice cubes are a must, so I included this handy little ice mold. I use them in everyday drinks like iced coffee, and Dan uses them for whiskey.

Finally, I included a mini panettone in the gift bag. If you haven’t had it, it’s a sort of sweet Italian bread with raisins and other fruit baked into it. I like to eat it for breakfast with my coffee during the holiday season. I had it every Christmas growing up, and I look forward to it every year.

I wrapped up my gifts in a fun chevron kraft Christmas bag and adding the cute printable tag that I found here.

The gift exchange happened over the weekend, during our annual friends’ holiday party, and I think this was the best one yet! I loved getting to see everyone’s favorite things.

I hope you get the chance to organize your own Favorite Things gift exchange this year. If not, the Favorite Things idea still makes for a great party in a big group of people. One of my friends from college hosts a Favorite Things get together every year in April. For that gathering, we all bring three of the same favorite things valued around $5 each, and everyone walks out with three cool new items. And if you don’t see yourself organizing any parties/gatherings related to Favorite Things, you can always use these ideas for stocking stuffers.