The Day After

My “Yule Log” cake!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired from all of the Christmas festivity. I stepped things up this year by trying new baking projects. In this cake I made on Christmas Eve, I used a yule log mold to make a modified gingerbread cake using Lebkuchen spices with Anise and Star Anise. I added a white chocolate frosting and shaped it to look like snow. I hand-painted food coloring using cake decorating paint brushes. So, I’m now painting on cakes as well! What a delicious canvas! As long as I don’t start thinking of my oil paints as something I’m tempted to lick off my brushes, I think there’s more cake painting in my future.

The yule log was moist, just the right amount of spice vs sweet, and quickly disappeared!
My Christmas Day doughnuts!

On Christmas morning I made special doughnuts. I learned how to bake using vanilla beans. My first attempt was to grate the bean, but I realized that I must be doing something wrong and I stopped. I looked it up and sure enough, this would have been a disaster. I was scraping the outside pod! 😀 So then I did it the right way, using a small sharp knife to cut the pod open and then scrape the soft black insides into my doughnut batter. That’s what makes the black vanilla specks. I rolled the finished doughnuts in powdered sugar and topped them with edible star-shaped gold glitter.

Edible star-shaped gold glitter
My husband and I enjoyed a Christmas breakfast doughnut before the kids woke up

This was one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten!

Christmas morning doughnuts ready for the day to start! (they fit so nicely in my display stand after my husband and I ate a couple of them, and then our son came down and ate one)
Southern biscuits and sausage gravy

I also made a full Christmas breakfast buffet, that was kept warm with a glass warming tray. This way, the family could eat whenever they wanted to, and continue to graze throughout the brunch hour and beyond. The Southern biscuits (made with special White Lily flour, soft winter wheat: a Southern tradition since 1883) and gravy were DIVINE, but the family devoured all of these foods equally. They ate almost an entire bag of potatoes in a single day, which was quite an astonishing achievement for five people to consume!

Eggs, sausage gravy, fried red potatoes, Black Forest ham
Eggs and potatoes with sausage gravy

This Christmas breakfast buffet was versatile. The family could use the sausage gravy over biscuits, or over the other foods. The biscuits also worked well for egg and/or ham sandwiches. So, breakfast could turn into lunch without stopping our fun to cook something new. Maybe this idea could help those of you who are looking for ways to make something special without cooking during the big event? I was able to do all of this before the family got too antsy, and then I was off duty for cooking. It was very nice, and everyone enjoyed the buffet!

My plate after devouring my Christmas morning doughnut and leaving behind glitter stars!

I hope that you enjoyed a very happy Christmas. I have more stories to share, but I thought I’d start with the food, as it is something that we humans have in common- we love to eat! The Secret Santa chef game we played in the week before Christmas is a tradition we plan to continue. This is the first year we started a Christmas breakfast buffet and the family wants to make it a new tradition, including the doughnuts- but I’ll made a different kind of Christmas doughnuts each year, to be a surprise to see what I come up with!


Secret Santa!

Watch oil painting “I Believe in Santa” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

You might remember when I talked about my family’s Secret Santa game in blog post “Santa Claus is Coming to Town“? Our Christmas fun involves FOOD! I said this: “My family started a Secret Santa tradition that is a bit different from the usual. Instead of exchanging presents, the “secret” is a home-cooked meal. We don’t know what each other is planning to cook for us until it’s dinner time on their scheduled day to be the secret (chef) Santa.”

Yesterday it was my husband’s turn to be Chef Santa. He made from-scratch (even the dough!) Calzones.

Homemade calzone by my husband
some ingredients include: ricotta cheese, mushrooms, peppers
My plate

Today is our oldest daughter’s turn to be Secret Santa. Husband is on his way home from a late shift at work. I’ll report on the food surprise tomorrow.

Holiday Break

Watch “Pumpkin Latte” come alive in 1 minute (time lapse)

Our house is already changing from pumpkin spices to gingerbread. Today we decorated the Christmas tree and made cookies. Yesterday for Thanksgiving we had a glorious feast! I was proud to use fresh garden rosemary, parsley, and basil to stuff and season the turkey. I went outside early in the morning while it was not quite light out, but I could see my breath in the chilly November air. I was like Santa choosing only the best reindeer for the mission- only the greenest and prettiest herbs made the cut for our Thanksgiving turkey.

Aren’t those fresh greens pretty? Their shapes are perfect!
Before roasting: turkey stuffed with an apple, orange, lemon, onion, parsley, rosemary, and basil. I also made herb butter with garlic and greens to spread under the skin and over the skin of the turkey. This is what makes it moist, tender, and in no need of basting.
It turned out VERY moist and tender, didn’t need a knife. It pulled apart with just large forks and tongs and the family could cut it easily with a fork! This is good because my husband has banned me from ever using an electric knife again after a certain incident from a few years ago… (The knife fell from the counter and I instinctively reached out and grabbed it to catch it from falling. I was very, very lucky that I caught it by the handle and not by the blade! Whew, that was close to a nasty accident. It was my painting hand too, so it could have possibly been quite tragic for me.)
My dinner plate, crammed full of food! I didn’t want the yams or cranberry sauce.
And here’s the cake I made last weekend. I took a chocolate cake recipe of my mom’s and made a few creative substitutions. Instead of milk I used eggnog, whiskey and espresso! Other than that, it was just chocolate cake! 🙂 The frosting was AMAZING. I modified a buttercream recipe.
The house even has a chimney on it. This bundt cake mold is made in the USA by Nordic Ware. The unfortunate crack you see is because I ran out of batter and had to quickly make more, so it’s two different cakes (one had the whiskey and espresso in it, the other had eggnog; both were chocolate cakes other than those substitutions for the milk). Anyway, I will make a double batch of batter before I begin next time. I’m going to make three of these tomorrow for my kids to decorate. The wreath is fondant and the snow is frosting. The trees are painted with a green food coloring pen. I didn’t add any other decorations, but my kids want to do more with theirs.

I have more stories to share, but this blog post is getting rather long! So, I’ll just leave this at the food highlights for now. I hope all of you have been enjoying your Thanksgiving break, and if you don’t celebrate this holiday, may you have a joyful weekend anyway!