Whew…I have been baking furiously over the last few days and finally …a breather. We host Christmas Eve at our house, so there have been a ton of culinary tasks to complete. My favorite of course was the baking. This year in lieu of the traditional pies and gingerbread trifle that I usually serve on Christmas Eve, I decided to switch it up and serve cookies, brownies, and glazed almonds for dessert. There were a ton of cookie recipes to choose from. In my “Cookie of the Week blog” (http://chris-cookieoftheweek.blogspot.com), I baked 60 different cookies in the last year. The cookies I baked for Christmas Eve were hand selected by Dan, the kids, and my Dad. Dan and Victoria requested “Mrs. Field’s Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies” (week 1 1/2 ), Ryan requested “Snickerdoodles” (week 2 1/2), and my Dad requested “Aunt Toni’s cookies” (week 52). These cookie recipes represent their personal favorites, and I was happy to honor their requests.
The “brownies two ways” was a compromise of sorts. The first brownie recipe is titled “Symphony Bar Brownies”, and I have made these yummy brownies multiple times in the past. They always get rave reviews and I usually get asked for the recipe. The second brownie was brand new to me and is titled ” 3 Ingredients Nutella Brownies.” The compromise was that my family requested “Black and White Brownies” our favorite brownie recipe ever. I have made this brownie recipe multiple times, and it is always a crowd pleaser. Since I was already making three cookie recipes that I have made before, and since I was making glazed almonds, also a tried and true recipe for me, I wanted to incorporate something new. So, in keeping with that adventurous spirit, I attempted the “3 Ingredient Nutella Brownies”, and I am happy to report that I loved them! They are rich and decadent, and if you like Nutella, you’ll love these brownies. They are super simple with only 3 ingredients, and they are ingredients that I always have on hand. I love love love Nutella, so I was delighted to find another recipe featuring this yummy chocolate treat. I actually passed out the recipe on Christmas Eve, so I’d say I wasn’t the only one who liked the brownies. ☺
In addition to all of the sweet treats that I prepared with love for my family, I also made hummus, rice, sweet potato casserole, and vegetarian salisbury steak. There were 8 vegetarians in the Christmas Eve crowd (my family of four included) so it was really important to me that we have a real meal, and not just a plate full of carbs. Since we had a “mixed crowd”, my Dad made the main courses for the carnivores, and I handled the veggie friendly cuisine. In the end, it was a happy culinary marriage, and everyone was full and content. Except of course for Ryan. He has a “white bread palate.” In all honesty, I have never fed Ryan actual white bread, but he is a “plain Jane” when it comes to food. If it weren’t for fruit, cinnamon wheat toast, plain pasta, nacho chips, goldfish crackers, popcorn, and waffles, I don’t think he’d eat anything on a regular basis. On Christmas Eve, Ryan happily ate plain pasta that I of course prepared with love…don’t even get me started on the fact that a good portion of this kids DNA is comprised of Italian, Greek, and Lebanese heritage, BUT he chooses to eat plain pasta. Oh well, he loves my desserts, I guess that’ll have to do…for now. ☺
I woke up early on Christmas Eve in eager anticipation of my family arriving. I love love love family get togethers, so I was super excited for my family to get her fast, and then take it really slow. It was a great day.
We watched football (GO LIONS!!!), exchanged gifts, ate yummy food, enjoyed each other’s company, and laughed a lot. Some of us (specifically the 2 Chris’s) sipped wine, but even Jimmy, “my brother from another mother”, had a glass…remarkable! The kids tracked Santa on the internet and made their predictions about what country he would visit next. We ended the evening with a screening of my favorite Christmas movie ever made “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Unbelievably, my Dad, my Kimmy, and my “brothers from another mother” had never seen it before…shocking. I love that movie, but I swear the last scene always gets me. I have seen that movie dozens of times and I still cry at the end. For me that movie represents all that is truly important in life. It represents generosity, family, friendship, and love. If you haven’t ever seen it, stop reading immediately and go rent or buy it…you won’t be sorry. Or better yet, call me and I’ll have you over, so we can eat cookies and watch it together. Just be prepared I will definitely cry at the end. ☺
In case you want a quick recap of the plot here it is: CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT. George Bailey (played by the incomparable and very handsome Jimmy Stewart) is a man who had big dreams of seeing the world. Through years of sacrifice for others, he misses the opportunity to fulfill his own goals and dreams. After a terrible banking error in his family business, by no fault of his own, he is faced with financial ruin, scandal, and incarceration. Disgruntled and thinking that his wife, their young children, and others he loves, would be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. The prayers of his loved ones and friends, however, reach heaven, and an angel named Clarence comes to earth to help George. If Clarence can help George, he will earn his wings. Via Clarence, George is given the opportunity to see what the world would have been like if he’d never been born. George is convinced that he did have a wonderful life, and Clarence returns him to the world as if nothing had happened. George goes home to find the entire community gathered at his house. In this scene, (the one that always makes me cry) all the townspeople, his family, and friends, donate money to George to revive his business, and restore his good name. The movie concludes with George’s brother, Harry (who in my opinion George has sacrificed the most for) bursts in the door, back from the war. As the whole community sings “Auld Lang Syne,” a bell rings, telling George that Clarence finally achieved his goal as an angel, and obtained his wings. My favorite part of the final scene is when George looks up at heaven and says “atta boy Clarence” and winks. I adore Jimmy Stewart, and this gesture embodies all that I find so charming about him…SIGH… he is just fabulous.
I have a ton of quotes from the movie that I love but I especially love the following quote. It is said by the angel Clarence, and it goes like this: “…strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” It reminds me that we all have such a huge impact on each other…even when we are unaware. It embodies “the pay it forward” notion that I love so much. So at Christmastime (and anytime really) remember that we all are significant, and we all have the ability to make a difference that just might change the world…even if only in our own little wonderful lives. Merry Christmas. ♥
Here are the links to the recipes: