Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"A Christmas Ball" Guest Post: Special Christmas Treats!!

Contest - 2 winners today

Thanks for having us here today at THE ECLECTIC READER, Sheree! A CHRISTMAS BALL will hit the bookstores on September 29th, so we thought we’d get your readers into the Christmas spirit with a little Christmas food!

In Regency England, Christmas dinner was typically served at 4 PM. Turkey did not feature prominently on the Regency menu (that came during the Victorian era.) Roast beef or venison was the mainstay of the meal, along with goose, capon, pheasant, bustard (!), swan and peacock. The fowl would be stuffed (and so would the diners after filling up on all those different meats!) If the household had a small oven, a baker would be engaged to cook the roasts and fowl and after church service, the family would stop by the bakery to pick up the meat for their dinner on the way home.

Mince Pie was a favorite holiday treat. This concoction included beef, suet, sugar, raisins, lemons, spices, orange peel, goose, tongue, fowls, eggs, apples and brandy. Originally called 12th Night Pie, it was made with the leftovers from Christmas dinner and would be eaten for the next 12 days (in a time when there was no refrigeration. Yum! Thank goodness the ice man cometh!)

And of course, there would be a Christmas pudding. Made from 13 ingredients (to represent Christ and the twelve apostles), the pudding was boiled for as long as 8 hours in a pudding cloth. Common ingredients were suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy. (Not exactly Jello!)

Now we’d like to share some of our favorite Christmas recipes!

From Alissa Johnson: This recipe contains three of my favorite things—sugar, cream cheese, and no need for me to actually use an oven. I’m just not a baker.

Christmas Mints
You will need:
One 8oz package of cream cheese
One 2 lb. bag of powdered sugar
1 tsp Mint flavoring
1 cup (more or less) of granulated sugar
Red or green food coloring if desired (paste is best, but dye will work)

1. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar (yes, the *entire* bag) and mint flavoring in large bowl.
2. Knead by hand or in mixer until smooth. I recommend using the mixer as this process takes some time.
3. Use food coloring sparingly until you reach the desired color.
4. Refrigerate dough 3 hours or overnight.
5. Put granulated sugar in bowl.
6. Roll small (walnut sized) bits of dough between hands to form a ball, then roll ball in sugar, coating well.
7. Use a rubber mint mold to form your cookies, or simply flatten with a fork (might want to use wax paper if you go that route) onto a cookie sheet.
8. Place cookies in freezer for 3 hours or overnight.
9. Transfer to plate or tin and keep frozen until ready to eat.
10. Enjoy!

This recipe makes. . .I have no idea. A lot.

From Jennifer Ashley: I live in the Southwest, and Christmas lets me indulge in tamales, Mexican chocolate, and a New Mexico favorite--crumbly, anise-flavored cookies called biscochitos. (Warning: They are addictive! If you are on a diet, run the other way).

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons anise seeds (less anise is more—you can overdo it)
2 eggs
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat sugar and shortening together until light and fluffy. Add anise and beat in eggs one at a time. Add brandy and beat. In a separate bowl, combine or sift together flour, salt, and backing powder. Add flour mixture and combine until dough pulls cleanly away from sides of bowl.

Chill dough for one hour 1 hour. Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let rest 30 minutes. Roll dough to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on baking sheet.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking OR roll hot baked cookies in the bowl of cinnamon sugar.

Bake cookies at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

From Emily Bryan: When I first learned to cook (and my DH will tell you I’m still learning!) I used to hate it when my mother or grandmother gave me recipes without definite portions in the ingredients. Yet, that’s what I’m going to share with you today because it is my family’s favorite Christmas dish - Homemade noodles

3 eggs (all of them! No separating out the yokes for this recipe. You can diet after New Years!)
¼ cup of milk (if you want more noodles, use more milk)
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cream of tartar
Flour (lots of it)
A stock pot full of turkey broth

Mix the eggs and milk together as if you’re going to scramble them. Add in the dry ingredients, saving the flour for last. Then add the flour in ½ cup increments “until it feels right” (Those are my grandmother’s words and I hope they mean more to you than they did to me!) You’ll have to get your hands dirty kneading the flour into the egg mixture, yet if you knead it too much, the noodles get “tough” (again, my grandmother’s pearl of wisdom!) This is a trial and error sort of recipe, but my DH swears even the failures are terrific.

What you want to end up with is a ball of dough you can roll out on a floured pastry cloth. Bear in mind, you’ll be adding more flour as you roll the noodles because you’ll dump an extra ¼ cup on them before you start rolling to keep them from sticking to the pin. Once you roll the noodles out (this should give you about a two foot square slab of future noodles, give or take, depending on how much milk and flour you used) you need to let them dry out for at least a couple hours, preferably overnight. You don’t want the dough sticking together when you start cutting it into very thin strips. Because of the baking powder, the noodles will plump up, so you want them cut thin (no more than ¼ inch).

Bring the turkey broth to a rolling boil and add the noodles. Stir frequently in a back and forth motion. If you stir in a circle, you’ll end up with a rather large dumpling (voice of experience!) You can lower the heat so the boil is less furious, but the noodles will need to cook for an hour.

It’s labor-intensive, but since I spend the other 364 days of the year avoiding cooking, I figure the noodles are a fair trade. My DH thinks so!

Thanks again for having us today, Sheree! Hope you all enjoy the Christmas recipes and if you’d like to try A CHRISTMAS BALL, there are excerpts of each of our stories on our websites!

Create your own banner at!

RSVP at your favorite bookseller!

A CHRISTMAS BALL buy link: Amazon

We’d also like to spread a little cheer by offering a book from the back list of Alissa Johnson or Emily Bryan to 2 people who leave comments today. What’s your favorite holiday dish?

This month on The Eclectic Reader you could win Fire by Kristen Cashore OR Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick OR Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Check this blog post for details. International entrants welcome.


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this anthology.

    My favourite holiday food are the sweets. In Australia our Christmas are in summer and it's usually pretty hot. On the years that it's not too hot we'll have roast pork but I make the yummiest deserts, like strawberry cheesecake, icecream slices and trifle. Mostly summer deserts but they're always good. Mmmm, now I'm hungry!

  2. My mouth waters by reading those recipes, oh how I wish it was xmas this second ;)

    My fav, well does eating the gingerbread dough my grandma makes? Lol it's so much yummier than the rather blah result.

  3. What a fun post! My favorite holiday dish is my mothers garlic potatoes. Ooh - can homemade fudge :)

  4. Alaine--I bet it does make the celebration of Christmas different to have it fall in high summer. Can you or any other Aussie share about some of the unique ways you've adapted Christmas decor, customs etc. to fit the time of year?

  5. Bloedeuedd--My Gma used to make ginger snaps, too. I can still taste them, spicy and warm fresh from the oven!

  6. Mandi--I've been cooking more with garlic lately and it makes the condo smell like I know what I'm doing even if I don't. Another great-smelling seasoning is truffle oil. Just a drop to a roast or soup or pasta and I swear it smells like a gourmet chef put the meal together.

  7. Well if you are going to cook only once a year, than Thanksgiving and Christmas are good choices :)

    Love the recipes today, as well as the history lesson. My family always makes "loaded meatballs" for Christmas. They are loaded with liquor to help make the holidays merry :) But seriously, they are so very yummy and we never make them but at Christmas.

  8. Lots of Aussie's have gone away from the traditional hot christmas lunch because of the heat. We have prawns, bugs, lobster, crab, cold chicken, pork, turkey and left overs from hot Christmas Eve dinner and yummy salads.

    We have aircon so we sometimes go traditional and sometimes we just start eating chocolates, nuts n bolts (nutrigrain with nuts & curry etc) and apricot balls, chocolate truffles, caramel tartlets and cob loaf early in the morning and we are too full to eat lunch lol

    booklover ~ loaded meatballs (as in a savoury meatball that has alcohol in it?) haven't heard of that one!

  9. Great post. I think I'd rather eat the modern day recipes than 12-day-old left overs.

    Are the holidays really upon us?


  10. favorite dish! what a question. food is one of our key aspects of our chrismas season. here's a few of my favs: Rocky road fudge: jar of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips melted and mixed together poured over marshmellows and set to cool until rock hard. it is to die for! then there's white chocolate cranberry cookies. so good. my daddy lives on fudge and cookies durring christmas time. but my fav ever (and it's not a dish but it's still the best) is my mommy's homemade eggnog. it's the best in the world!

    i'd love to win, enter me! haleymathiot at yahoo dot com

  11. Booklover--Your loaded meatballs reminded me of my DH's grandmother's rum cake. It didn't call for that much liquor, but she never seemed to have enough rum left over to make a second one! ;-)

  12. Oh, Teddy! Please tell me "bugs" means something different in Australia than it does in the States!

  13. Christie--The holidays are always upon us! There's never enough time to do all we'd like for our fams to celebrate.

  14. Hi Emily, our Christmas here really reflects the summer season, I think we have some different traditions i.e. gift giving never done on Christmas Eve like it is on your movies (do you really do that?) we do it early Christmas morning. Instead of wearing Christmas sweaters, we take photos with Santa hats (or is that just us scrapbookers LOL). Lots of families go to the beach and do summer activities.

    Some Aussies like Sheree eat lots of seafood on Christmas day. I personally hate it so we don't eat it. When I'm planning my Christmas meals I try when possible to have a roast meal but if it's too hot we have cold chicken, ham of the bone and salads. We drink our egg nog cold and have our baked ham cold.

    Christmas is still our favourite time of year, it's just never white, well unless we have a hail storm LOL. It's just a summer Christmas, we still overeat, overspend and overindulge just like the rest of the world.

    I can't wait until Christmas!

  15. OMG I'm drooling here!!

    One of the ingredients in Alissa's Christmas Mints recipe is powdered sugar. Does anyone know if that's icing sugar??

    And Em, I am really dying to know what Krumkake is? I saw it mentioned on one of the blogs you, Alissa & Jennifer have visited.

  16. Haley--Food is always a source of celebrating and every culture has their own definition of "goodies." My DH is Norwegian, so when I came into his family, I was introduced to lefsa, krumkake and Swedish meatballs. Of course, they made me eat lutefisk too. (That's codfish that's been soaked in lye! No joke.) If you drown it in butter, it's not bad, but it does sort of slither down your throat on its own steam.

  17. too funny Emily "bugs" as in Moreton Bay Bugs are seafood, sort of like a crayfish/lobster type looking critter.

    I should have pulled your leg and said something like Aussies love witchety grubs, or fried cockroaches at christmas LOL

  18. Krumkake is a very thin Norwegian waffle that's curved around a hot iron so it has a center that can be filled with whipped cream and berries! Yum! It's very labor intensive (as all good things are) and unfortunately in one of our many moves (we've lived in 9 different states) my krumkake iron went astray.

  19. Teddy--I might have believed you! Candy ants and sugared grubs? Protein is protein, I guess.

  20. All of these look so good, and I might even be able to manage some of them with my limited cooking skill! My favorite thing during the holidays is Pumpkin Pie...we have it for both Thanksgiving & Christmas...Yum.

  21. OK yummy krumkake is doing it for me and not so much the codfish soaked in lye, the slithering down the throat sounds a bit too much like an oyster ughh. Unless of course oyster is kilpatrick (do you eat them kilpatrick in U.S)

    I always make a pavlova for christmas desert.

  22. Sheree, you should make a pavlova for Ant's 18th, yum!!!! Krumkake sounds like creams horns or cream puffs.

  23. I'm loving reading about the Christmas traditions of old England and Down Under!

    Waving hi to three lovely author buddies! Best of luck with the holiday tales!

  24. Tome--We do pumpkin pie here too! The scent of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice is intoxicating.

    Teddy--What's kilpatrick? Sounds like we're divided by a common language here.

    Alaine--Pavlova makes me think of drooling canines (as in Pavlov's dogs!) I assume this dish is also drool-worthy.

    Colleen! Thanks for dropping by!

  25. "One of the ingredients in Alissa's Christmas Mints recipe is powdered sugar. Does anyone know if that's icing sugar?"

    Yes, it's icing sugar to the rest of the planet, powdered sugar to us. :-) (Good stuff, too--when I was a kid, I used to pour some into a bowl and eat it with my finger. I obviously needed more to do.)

  26. Hi everyone!! I'm reading about Christmas in Australia with interest.

    Where I live, it's also warm (though "officially" winter, it's about 70-75 in December), so we often have Christmas dinner out on the patio. We usually have a trad dinner, although I sometimes make lasagna, and I always either make or buy tamales from a Mexican market/restaurant.

    Another Southwest holiday tradition is lumnarias--candles lit inside paper bags lining driveways, walkways, walls. Very beautiful. The real ones with real candles are much prettier than the plastic fake ones (though the fake ones are so much easier!) My mom and I do lumnarias every year.

  27. LOL you wouldnt think that 2 english speaking countries would have so many differences in just the area of food.

    I've never eaten pumpkin pie, don't think that's too common in Australia either.

    Kilpatrick are oysters topped with cooked bacon, worcestshire, soya sauce and bbq sauce and a little rock salt and popped under the grill for 5 mins.

    Pavlova is definitely a calorie free desert LOL. A super-sized home-made meringue topped with lashings of fresh cream, fresh fruit chopped fine, loads of strawberries and drizzled with passionfruit, absolutely drool worthy

  28. Hi Jennifer, lumnarias sound beautiful.
    Most years by Christmas, many states in Australia are on a total fire ban so lumnarias wouldnt be allowed outside. At one stage we couldnt have real candles at the huge carols by candlelight.

    Aussies do light up their homes with christmas lights though and the bigger cities have bus tours of the best christmas lights

  29. Hi everyone,
    I love Christmas and Thanksgiving because of all the great deserts. :)
    Pavlova is good and I also love anything with cinnamon,ginger and anise.All the Italian cookies.But the one dish we have that is a must for everyone in our family is our Mashed potato/turnip dish.(5 lbs potatoes with 2 turnips,all cooked and mashed and them mixed together with cream and butter) To us it just wouldn't be a holiday without it. My grandparents and parents always had it and so have I.

  30. The recipes sound yummy...

    I like to make a rum cake... with real rum. There is 1/2 c. baked into the cake and then another 1/2 c. in the glaze which is drizzled over the cake after it cools.

    Everyone is happy after eating one slice! LOL

    Tracey D

  31. Jenn & Teddy--One year in NC, we set the lawn on fire with luminaries! After that we waited till we were Christmassing in snow country!

  32. MMMM Thanks for all the recipes and a peak at Christmas meals down under. I am loving this blog tour as I am discovering neat blogs I never knew existed.
    Love & Hugs,

  33. mmm yummy! I make an anise flavored cookie as well around the holidays. I guess Christmas means anise to lots of people huh?

  34. Carol! Adding turnip to mashed potatoes sounds like a great way to spice the dish up.Thanks.

    Tracey--That was how we all felt about my DH's Grandma's rum cake. She was always happy when she was making it too! LOL!

  35. Pam--Glad you could join us. Be sure to bookmark this site!

    Jenny--I've never had anise cookies. What does anise taste like?

  36. Wow! Christmas already! We just got done with summer.

    My favorite holiday dish is homemade cheese raviolis with homemade sauce.

    Thanks ~ megalon22{at}yahoo{dot}com

  37. I have bookmarked this site & the others on your tour. I love to explore book blogs.
    Take care

  38. What a cool book!!! Loving the recipes now if they would just come to my house to make them!

  39. Ohhh.. Love the recipes. My favorite holiday dish has to be (I know it's not a sweet) the Honeybaked ham my dad always gets. It's good the first day and is even better as leftovers. Love it!!

    Thanks, mmillet at gmail dot com

  40. Hi Teddyree and ladies!!

    My favorite is Pumpkin Pie or Pecan Pie. Pumpkin is easier to make and eat though, not quite as rich. I'll be giving these recipes a try too!


    Dottie :)

  41. My fave holiday treat is butter tarts, a Canadian specialty. I got such a craving a few weeks ago that I made some, and they actually worked (a first for me!). Mince pie (although without all the leftovers in it, LOL) comes second. Oh, and dark fruitcake, too.

    I've always wanted to try roast goose. And Christmas pudding! Sounds time-consuming and absolutely wonderful.

  42. Mmmmm the Mints look delicious! And I love that you don't have to bake them!

    My favourite Christmas recipe are Homemade Oreos. They're not a Christmas-specific treat, but that's the time of year my family always seems to make them. And oh, are they yummy! They're always the first to go from a platter of Christmas goodies.


  43. OMGoodness! I go away to work on writing for a bit and tons of folk show up! Oh, everyone has so many yummy things to share, I'm gaining weight as I read about them!

    Time to break for lunch and there's nothing as remotely interesting in my kitchen as all the goodies talked about here.

  44. A once-a-year holidays-only treat for me is homemade mincemeat pie which a dear friend bakes following a family recipe. The best! And of course, Christmas is not Christmas without carrot cake!

    Thanks for the wonderful recipes!


  45. Hi everyone!
    Teddyree –Thanks for having us here today!
    I had to look up what icing sugar is. : ) I had no idea it was the same thing, and that it’s also known as confectioner’s sugar. I guess you really do learn something new every day.
    I prefer my Krumkake plain and in great big handfuls. Ambrosia from Scandinavia. If you want to skip the lutefisk (and I recommend that you do) you could try lefsa instead for another taste of Nordic holiday food—it’s sort of a potato crepe that’s not half bad with lots of sugar.

    Staci—that’s my kind of holiday cooking! : )

    Dottie—Pecan pie—oh, yum! An American South favorite.

    Alitareads—I’d love to learn how to make homemade oreos. And, like Staci, have something else actually do the work for me.

  46. Nope, you're not going to get me to cook. lol

    The recipes sound great. We make mince meat pie during the holidays, but it doesn't have meat in it. Grin.

    I have been to Australia, but never at Christmas.

  47. Hi :)
    Thank you for sharing those great recipes.
    My favorite Christmas dish is the big turkey dinner with all the family.
    All the best,

  48. My favorite dish at any holiday is my Grandma's homemade noodles.


  49. What a seriously neat post! Love the info as well as the recipes!

    Gosh, Christmas is right around the corner too.

  50. I love holiday food with all the special treats and flavors. Love my dad's pumpkin pie. I also love gingerbread. Thanks for the recipes.

  51. Cheryl--Your cheese ravioli reminds me of our usual Christmas Eve fare--a big pot of chili soup. You can feed an army and it's good whenever everyone arrives!

    Staci--Sorry. No cooking housecalls!

    Michelle--When I was a child, my grandmothers would conspire so that one of them would fix turkey and the other hame so we'd get a variety while we made the rounds!

    Dottie--when we lived in NC, our friends all made pecan pie. I was never brave enough to try it.

    Barbara--Butter tarts, hmm? I loved the line from LAST HOLIDAY when Chef Diddier tells Georgia the secret to life----"Butter!"

    Alita--How are homemade Oreos different from storebought?

  52. Etirv-Did you make that carrot cake you use as your avatar? It's beautiful.

    Hi Alissa! Sounds like you know your way around a Scandinavian dinner table.

    Sandy--I've often wondered what it would be like not to cook for the holidays. Like on a Christmas cruise . . .

    RK--Turkey does smell a house up nicely. I find most of my Christmas memories are bound up in fragrance of one thing or another.

    Stacy--Noodles! Now you're talking!

    J Kaye--It's always sooner than you think.

    Lindseye--Your dad made pumpkin pie? Cool. My dad grills. He says "Man cook with fire!"

  53. I've never made mince pie, but my cousin's neighbor made us Shepherd's pie. It was delicious.

  54. Lindseye—My dad often cooks and he makes some great treats, including a homemade fudge that will send you into a sugar induced coma and rot your teeth on contact—I love it. Oddly enough, I’ve never seen him bake a pie. Same for my brothers. Wonder why that is.

    Emily—I can’t believe you’ve tried lutefisk and not pecan pie. I won’t touch the first, but the second is gooey, crunchy goodness. It even comes in chocolate.

    Jennifer—Oh, I remember the lumnarias from my time in New Mexico. Absolutely beautiful.

    Jane—I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never had mince or shephard’s pie.

  55. Well looks like there was plenty of action while I was snoozing. Love all the talk of christmas food & traditions and I cannot wait to read A Christmas Ball.

    Em, Jennifer, Alissa, this has been lots of fun and you're welcome anytime on The Eclectic Reader :-)

    Ooh homemade oreos sound delicious!

  56. Alissa ~ fudge that induces a sugar coma & buys your dentist a ferrari, lol my idea of heaven!

  57. Turkey and dressing and I love pumpkin roll. My favorite is when we have Christmas breakfast. My mom and my siters get together and make scrambled eggs, country ham, homemade biscuits, fried potatoes, gravy and bacon. I love the holidays.

  58. Alissa--The lutefisk was kind of like a Norwegian hazing--a rite of passage into my husband's family! Don't worry. He's worth it!

    Teddy--As always, I've had a ball at THE ECLECTIC READER. Thanks so much for having us.

    Kimml--I'm afraid I skip Christmas breakfast because I know the feeding frenzy begins at lunch.

  59. Kimmyl--That breakfast sounds like a dream, particularly the fried potatoes. I love those.

    Teddy--Thanks so much for having us here today! I've had a lot of fun!

  60. Hello again everyone! Enjoying ACB tour!
    Emily, I wish this carrot cake was my masterpiece but nah! Sadly, the last carrot cake I had baked was pretty but it hard as rock and could have been used as a doorstopper!

  61. I love pumpkin pie, greek pasta salad, turkey balls, veggie lasagna, pumpkin ice cream w/ hot caramel, broccoli, feta & spinach stuffed baked potatoes,candied yams, butterscotch pudding, caesar salad w/ feta & parmesan, mint fudge, vanilla fudge, oreo fudge, broccoli & cheese biscuits,
    baklava,greek pizza,pecan pie...


  62. I'm w/ you, Alaine, "we still overeat, overspend and overindulge just like the rest of the world" LOL!

  63. God those recipes... are calling me .. if only there was someone to cook that for me :) :)

    Holidays! Esp. Christmas- it has to be cakes! YUMM! i love pies.. apple pie YUMM! ok i m not going to start blabbering about food at all !

  64. I was an adult before I knew there was such a thing as "homemade" noodles; thought they came in a bag from the pasta aisle at the grocery store. My mother-in-law taught me to make noodles, similar to your instructions: beat some eggs, add some flour till you can't add any more. They are a standard side dish for Christmas and Thanksgiving.


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