Christmas Eve. Every child’s favorite night of the year and the one night they won’t fall asleep. And every parent’s nightmare because the longer the children are awake, the less time to build Santa’s toys! While I have yet to experience the joys of being a parent on Christmas Eve, I have fond memories of my childhood Christmas Eves.
Those final days to Christmas seemed to drag on forever. As a kid, every day seemed like it just wouldn’t end. Oh, to be young and feel that way again! Now I can barely get through two things on my to-do list in a day before the sunlight is gone and it’s time for dinner! But as the days drew nearer to Christmas, I got increasingly impatient and just wanted to know what was in the wrapped packages. I can remember shaking, nudging, and weighing my gifts in hopes of figuring something out about it. I think even one year I tried the old “oops, the paper started to rip” trick, but my mom caught onto that one pretty quick. That happened to be the year I received my beloved “A Little Princess” movie – VHS!
As an adult though, things are a lot different. You don’t have to wait until Christmas morning to open your presents. I mean, technically, you can open them whenever they show up, right? My brother and I are staunch believers in saving all gifts until Christmas because if you don’t, what else will you do? He lives across the country in California, so he’s not with family during the holidays. So for him, opening presents Christmas morning is something that keeps him connected to the rest of us on the East Coast.
Me, on the other hand – I live rather close to my family. Ever since my husband and I began dating, he made a big deal about seeing family during the holidays. This was one of the things I loved about him because no one else I had been with really spent quality family time (or didn’t give a hoot about mine). He was the first one that took an interest in my side of the family and actually encouraged me to make plans for us to spend the holidays with them.
Take the first year that we were together, for example. We visited my family for Thanksgiving, which was the first time I had been home on a holiday in years. Not to mention, this was the first time he met my parents. His mom’s side of the family had a huge Christmas extravaganza, so we chose to visit her for that particular holiday. Her Christmas was a bit more than I’d ever experienced. Her husband’s best friends hosted us and the family for Christmas Eve and Day, along with the days leading up to the holiday. Every night, they would sing and dance, playing card games and munching on cheese and crackers.
Their Christmas Eve tradition was one that I found interesting, but quickly fell in love with. On the night before Christmas, we each opened our stockings. The host and hostess made sure that everyone had a full stocking – even me, the brand new member to this family circle. We all gathered in the front sitting room and took turns opening the treasures that were hidden inside these ginormous knit stockings. Everything from the staples (toothpaste, lotion, toothbrushes), to gag gifts, to cards and sentimental thoughts could be found in those stockings.
And as the night would wind down, we would refill our wine glasses, have another smidgen off the cheese platter, and top off our drinks. Not once were we concerned about jumping into bed to awake bright and early to open presents because, in reality, the presents that mattered didn’t need to be opened. The company we shared and the memories made on those Christmas Eves were what really mattered – not what was wrapped up underneath the tree.
So, whether you have a quiet Christmas Eve at home with family or a bustling evening planned with friends, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the company you share.
EGGNOG PANCAKES WITH MAPLE CRANBERRY SYRUP
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups dairy or canned eggnog
- ¼ cup cooking oil
Maple Cranberry Syrup
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- In a large bowl combine flour and other dry ingredients.
- In a second bowl, combine eggs, eggnog, and oil. Stir eggnog mixture into flour mixture until slightly lumpy.
- Heat a lightly greased griddle or skillet over medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake. Cook until golden; turn when tops are bubbly and edges are slightly dry (1 to 2 minutes per side).
- For the syrup, heat all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover with a lid (trust me on this) and cook until the berries begin to burst. Once the syrup thickens and the berries begin to blend together, remove from heat and pour over warm pancakes!
Peppermint Mocha Chiller Shake
- 1/2 cup brewed coffee, chilled
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop Chocolate Shakeology
- 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
- 1 cup ice
- Pour all items in blender and blend until smooth!
Pear, Pomegranate, and Spinach Salad
- 2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
- 3/4 cup pomegranate arils
- 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 pears (firm but ripe), cored and sliced
- 9 oz baby spinach
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a bowl.
- Place all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl, drizzle with desired amount of dressing then toss to evenly coat. Serve immediately.
ROSEMARY AND GARLIC ROAST BEEF
- 3 lbs. boneless rib eye roast
- ¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary
- ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 20 cloves)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 T olive oil, divided
- 4 T butter, divided
- 2 cups of mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 cup of stock
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Season the roast with salt and pepper.
- Mix together rosemary, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to combine and reserve.
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sear all sides of the meat.
- Remove skillet from heat. Brush the herb-garlic mixture all over the roast.
- Place the skillet in a greased casserole dish and cook for about 75 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 135F degrees.
- Remove from the oven and pour in the mushrooms. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
- Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving (final temperature should be 145F for medium rare.)
- Serve with your favorite sides and with some of the mushroom sauce pour over each slice.
Cranberry Apple Wild Rice Pilaf
- 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups apple juice
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- 3 T butter, divided
- 1/2 tsp EACH: salt, dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup wild rice blend, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 Fuji or honeycrisp apple, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar (to taste)
- 1/2 cup fresh or dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
- In a large skillet bring broth, apple juice, 1 tablespoon butter, salt, pepper, herbs, and bay leaf to a boil.
- Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45-60 minutes or until rice is tender and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed. Pour rice into a bowl and set aside.
- To the now empty skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add onions and apples; sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until onions and apples are tender. Add garlic and saute for 30 more seconds.
- Return rice to skillet along with cranberries and pecans. Add apple cider vinegar a little at a time to taste. Toss to evenly combine, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 1 large acorn squash
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp ground sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 large clove minced garlic (about 1 tablespoon)
- 8oz package of small mushrooms quartered
- 2 T dried sage
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp ground sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh cranberries
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Wash and trim the ends off of the Acorn Squash. Stand upright and cut in half length-wise.
- Scoop out the seeds, then place squash halves on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Brush inside of each half with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper and then place cut side down on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 25 minutes. While squash is roasting, prepare stuffing.
- Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onion and sauté 1-2 minutes.
- Add garlic, mushrooms, sage, and cranberries, sautéing another 5-7 minutes.
- Remove squash from oven and split the stuffing between the two squash halves.
- Return to the oven an bake 10 more minutes. Serve warm with your favorite entree!
Gingerbread Ice Cream
- 4-5 frozen bananas
- 2 T molasses
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- 1 cup of gingerbread, ginger cookies, or gingersnaps, crumbled
- Blend everything except the cookies in a high speed blender or food processor until creamy and smooth.
- Add 1/3 of the cookie crumbles. Blend briefly to combine.
- Spread into a shallow pan or Tupperware container. Sprinkle more cookie crumbles on top and freeze for at least 2 hours.
- Scoop into bowls, top with more cookie crumbles, enjoy!
- Keep in the freezer for up to 2-3 days.