ho ho ho!: scrumptious treats and a holiday blog break

IT’S CHRISTMAS WEEK! IT’S CHRISTMAS WEEK!

Put on your best bibs and elf shoes and ring those bells!

Now that I’m done with shopping, wrapping, mailing and decorating, I can finally “relax” and concentrate on my favorite part of the holidays — food! Needless to say, the Alphabet Soup furry kitchen helpers are beside themselves with excitement. This year, we decided to try a couple of new recipes to keep things interesting, and we picked up a few treats from the British Pantry in anticipation of “Downton Abbey” starting up again on January 3. Mrs. Patmore, here we come!

To me, there’s nothing more British than mince pies at Christmastime. The only person in my family to ever bake mince pies was Auntie Ella, and she made the full size pies that are common in America, rather than the individual serving tart-size ones that you see in the UK. Mince pie also appeared on the Thanksgiving table in New Hampshire; when Len’s parents were still alive, mince and apple pies were served more often than pumpkin.

Those little mince pies are just too cute — couldn’t resist buying a couple of boxes from the BP, Walker’s Spiced Orange and Cranberry, and Mr. Kipling’s. Of course they’re perfect with a cup of tea, so we stocked up on some Downton Abbey Holiday Cheer and Christmas teas.

Also treated ourselves to a tin of Quality Street confections. These yummy chocolate covered toffees were made by Mackintosh in Halifax, West Yorkshire, before Nestlé acquired Rowntree-Mackintosh in 1988. Happy to see that the Quality Street sweets are still packaged in the familiar pink/magenta boxes and tins, something I first saw when I lived in England, and which I’ll always associate with traditional British holidays.

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[a most aromatic review] Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano and Marjorie Priceman

Mmmmmm! There’s nothing like the tantalizing aroma of a brand new picture book to put me in a happy holiday mood. Even better when it’s been cooked up by two immensely talented women — multiple Emmy award winner Sonia Manzano and two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Marjorie Priceman.

Miracle on 133rd Street (Atheneum, 2015) contains just the right ingredients for a satisfying, heartwarming read: family, friends, neighbors, sharing, a little bit of magic, music, and even a mustached pizza chef!

Most important, this story is about the power of food — to soothe the savage breast, bring people together, and beget joy.

The food in question is a roast. A BIG roast. One that’s too big to fit in the oven. It’s Christmas Eve and Mami is beside herself. She’s also homesick for Puerto Rico, where she could have easily cooked the roast outside. Jokingly, young José says what they need is a big pizza oven. Papi thinks that’s actually a good idea, so they put the roast in a big box to take it to Regular Ray’s Pizzeria.

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[review + recipes] The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles

The holidays are here and you know what that means: fun and “interesting” gatherings with family and friends, a time when we’re especially happy to hear these two little words: LET’S EAT!!

When all your favorite dishes magically appear on the table, where will you sit?

I love when we visit my grandma Mabel.
I get to sit at the little kids’ table!

The young narrator in this hilarious new rhyming picture book, The Little Kids’ Table, couldn’t be happier. After all, he knows he and his cousins are in for a rollicking good time. Unlike his parents, who must sit at the grown-ups’ table (“so shiny and fancy,/and has pretty flowers from my aunt Nancy”), they will, among other things, get to fiddle with their flatware:

Next to our forks we have spoons at our places.
We try to get them to stick to our faces.

First you breathe on the spoon, then press it on tight.
It’ll hang from your nose if you do it just right.

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friday feast: fly soup and apple brownies

Please help yourself to a cup of tea and an apple brownie (spiders and centipedes optional).

On this crisp and clear Halloween Eve, we’re serving up a tasty poem by London-based author Elli Woollard.

I love noshing at her wonderful blog, Taking Words for a Stroll, which is a gold mine of fun, whimsical, silly and nonsensical rhymes, sure to put a smile on your face and make you want to indulge in some wordplay of your own.

One never knows just what Elli will write about next — ducks? vikings? cats? farting mermaids? I admit I was first drawn to her foodie poems. Who could resist such titles as “Kitchen Bullies,” “Feeling Like Cake,” “Best Biscuit Race”, “The Joys of Toast”? Here’s a poet who’ll riff on cheese even though she doesn’t personally care for it. Oh, and did you know there’s a “Shortage of L’s”? Nasty business, that. I don’t ike it one bit.:)

When I saw “There’s a Fly in My Soup,” I knew I just had to share it here. Soup — my middle name! And since it’s almost Halloween and all, it’s a good time to swallow a few flies, spiders and other creatures with rascally relish. Bugs, birds and goats never tasted so good.

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[Review, Author Chat + Giveaway] Pat Zietlow Miller on Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

Is it that steamy mound of creamy mashed potatoes, begging for a generous splash of savory gravy? Grandma’s candied sweet potatoes or Aunt Beverley’s green bean casserole? Maybe for you it’s all about the turkey itself with its golden brown crispy skin — moist when you slice into it, even better with cornbread stuffing and fresh cranberry sauce. Can’t forget the pies — homemade pumpkin or apple? Yes, please!

Safe to say, this traditional holiday meal wouldn’t be quite as delicious without all the sharing — the sharing of cooking, baking, and serving tasks, and of course, having family and friends sitting around the table to devour every last bite.

(click to enlarge)

Pat Zietlow Miller’s delectable new picture book, Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story (Schwartz & Wade, 2015), invites us to step back into the 19th century to feast with a lively family of 10:

Mama, fetch the cooking pot.
Fetch our turkey-cooking pot.
Big and old and black and squat.
Mama, fetch the pot.

An enthusiastic young boy coaches each member of his family on a specific task: Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads the dough, Brother bastes the turkey, Grandpa boils the cranberries, Grandma bakes pumpkin pie, Auntie mashes potatoes, Uncle pours cider, and even Baby’s got a job — to “be a sleeping mouse.” With his brother and sister, the boy also makes paper pilgrim hat placemats, and when all is finally done, he calls everyone to the table. Yum!

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