The countdown to Christmas is on! This week is going to be an obvious busy one with Christmas Eve on Friday. My families coming into town on Wednesday, so I really need to get a jump on things. My tree is finally up, and yes this year I went artificial. It was a hard decision for me because I have never purchased a “fakey” before. However, I found the most realistic tree on Wayfair.com and I will tell you this, I couldn’t be more pleased. It looks real and makes my ornaments hang so beautifully from each branch. Those who have seen it so far, haven’t noticed it wasn’t freshly cut, or bought from Home Depot, where I normally would go, and fight the crowd in the parking lot for the last 9-foot tree.
As far as gifts, I have most everything wrapped because it was an easier year — we drew names in my family. There is an app called Secret Santa for the iphone that my sister found, and boy did it make life easier, especially when you live in different states. She just added everyone’s email and it sent us a link to set up a profile, then you draw or hit a button, and out pops the person’s name with a list of items that they want for Christmas. It couldn’t get any easier than that. We try to keep it simple with the adult gift giving at Christmastime, except for the grandkids of course. I think most of us feel we had the best Santa experience when we were their age, and we try to keep that tradition going.
However, adults need a little love too and here are some gifts ideas related to baking and cooking that I think are nice things to share that won’t break the bank. I bought these coupe wine glasses for my Santa Ynez home that are the perfect weight and size for champagne or martinis, and under $60 for a set of six. I love a glass that is multi-purpose, that you can use for dessert as well. You can easily fill them with custard, cake and berries for individual trifles at the holidays, as well as use them for a toast on New Year’s Eve. Having a good pot to cook in is very important to me in my kitchen and I’ve become such a fan of Lodge products over the years. I find them more durable than some brands and their Dutch ovens are perfect for soups, stews, braising meat, or baking a sourdough loaf in the oven. I also couldn’t live without a good wooden spoon either. It’s my utensil of choice and I prefer them over plastic or rubber products. This year, I didn’t buy many cookbooks because I have so many, but I did ask Santa for a few new ones, and here are some that I think look interesting. Bayrut, the Cookbook is all about Lebanese cooking and culture with recipes that highlight whole-grains, vegetables and seafood, things I enjoy preparing and eating. Ottolenghi Test Kitchen is a unique book that is near and dear to my heart because it’s about using what you already have on hand in your refrigerator, or pantry. Cookies, The New Classics is all about cookies, and I truly love baking, especially cookies.
Last but not least, here are the meal ideas for the week — recipes that will truly get you excited for Christmas. I don’t think holiday dinners need to get too fancy or difficult, but they certainly do need to bring the delicious. Have a good week, and say, hello to Santa for me.
Monday – I love spaghetti squash and especially when it’s topped with brown butter and hazelnuts. It’s the perfect side dish in any meal.
Tuesday – Meatballs are one of my favorite foods and these are infused with fennel, and prepared in a rich tomato sauce. I like to serve them over wilted spinach, and I do think they make a nice Christmas dinner, for those of you that are tired of turkey.
Wednesday – I enjoy a good mushroom soup and this one has wild rice included. The combination of flavors is rustic and hardy. It’s a nice vegetarian meal that will certainly fill you up.
Thursday – It’s a great night for a pot pie and this seafood version is tasty as can be and made with store-bought puff pastry. I love that fact that it’s a one-dish wonder, especially when you have some wrapping to get done before the night’s over.
Friday – We have Mexican food at my house on Christmas Eve and this slow-cooker chicken filling makes the best tacos, enchiladas or burritos. You can stuff just about anything with this slightly spicy shredded chicken.
Saturday – It wouldn’t be Christmas without bread pudding. My eggnog bread pudding is rich and creamy and can be served for dessert or on Christmas morning, when opening gifts. Merry Christmas!