Traditions

Christmas is five days away and while our home has looked festive for the last month or so, I am still scrambling to get everything in order with regard to gifts, accommodations for my parents, and ingredients for what will be on our Christmas Day menu.

I enjoy this time of year a lot more now that we live so much closer to my family. It’s also fun to get to share the traditions of the holidays with a toddler Kennedy, who is now old enough to understand and get excited for the big day. She’s also debuted some new traditions with my mom and me. Well, new to her, anyway. We’ve been baking cookies together for decades!

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Cutting cookies! ✂️ We introduced K to my grandmother’s recipe box this week.

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…and decorating 🌈

She also did a lot better with Santa Claus this year than in the past!

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2014 vs. 2016

And we all got to enjoy a Christmas party together that my fabulously talented husband catered (to perfection!).

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Fam bam❤️

Each year, I’m sure we all hear an earful from someone aiming to point out the overly commercial nature of the Christmas holiday as it is celebrated in the Western world, so I won’t start down that path here. What I will say, though, is that even if you are someone who chooses to indulge in the holiday for all its sparkly capitalism, do not do so devoid of generosity, making memories, and kindness. I’ve seen way too many people use Christmas gifting as a means for trying to prove their love or make others jealous, and that’s definitely not the right emotion to place behind giving.

Quick Tip #4: Seasonings and Flavors

Monday’s quick tip is all about flavor! Fun facts: Did you know that cumin does wonders for your digestive health? It’s also high in antioxidants. Thyme is helpful for treating acne and high blood pressure. Explore your spice rack! It’s tasty and beneficial to your health!

Note: If you use Tony Chachere’s, you don’t need to use salt.
Also, just a dash of cayenne pepper will take you a long way. 🙂

Quick Tip #1: Easy Salad Dressing

I got some great feedback on the food pics from my last blog entry, so I’ve decided to start filming some quick tips to help others make healthy choices in the kitchen. Here’s my first one!

Ingredients:
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 “squeeze” yellow mustard
a splash of water

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

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Pumpkin soup from scratch is one of my favorite things about the fall season. I can’t speak for others, but I take for granted just how versatile and delicious pumpkins are when cut down and used for foods like breads, pies, and soups. I decided to use the pumpkins we got this year for a spicy pumpkin soup. This dish was a hit in my home three years ago when I first made it.

I modified this recipe slightly from the one published at Simply Recipes.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)

6 cups of fresh pumpkin puree

5 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)

2 cups of milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

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Humble in appearance, but looks are deceiving. This soup is loaded with lots of hearty flavor!

 

Method

  1. Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.
  2. Add pumpkin and 5 cups of chicken broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring to incorporate. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste. If a little too spicy, add more cream to cool it down. You might want to add a teaspoon of salt.

 

Serve in individual bowls. Use roasted pumpkin seeds as optional garnish.

Toasted Quinoa Salad

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I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the (looks) of my toasted quinoa salad via Instagram. It’s a huge hit at my house, and if you like quinoa, you will likely appreciate this recipe. I first discovered the recipe for this salad on another blog called Alosha’s Kitchen, which you can visit at aloshaskitchen.blogspot.com. I made some tweaks to her recipe, so what you see posted here isn’t an exact replica.

Ingredients

For the salad:
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears) [Here’s one difference. The quinoa salad you see pictured on my blog doesn’t include corn.]
1 cup diced (1/2 inch) cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup thin-sliced (1/4 inch) scallions (white and green parts)
1/2 cup feta cheese [Omit to keep the dish vegetarian/vegan] 


For the dressing:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeno pepper, plus more to taste [My quinoa salad doesn’t include jalapeño, either.]
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon coarse salt

For the garnish:
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced (1/2 inch)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Method

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer under cold water for at least 45 seconds. Shake the strainer to remove as much water as possible.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the rinsed quinoa and cook, stirring, over medium heat until it is light golden brown, which takes about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water to the quinoa, and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent, which takes about 18 to 20 minutes.

Let stand, uncovered, until cool, about 10 minutes.

As the quinoa cools, you can start to make the dressing.  Sprinkle the cumin in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring, for about 3 minutes. *Tip: When roasting seasonings, one key to knowing that it is ready is when you can smell it.
Remove from heat. When the skillet is cool to the touch, add the oil, lime juice, garlic and salt. Transfer to a large bowl, and whisk to blend.

Add the cooled quinoa, cheese, tomatoes and scallions to the dressing, and toss to blend.

Spoon the salad onto a large platter, and garnish with the avocado and cilantro.