December 23, 2007

believe it or not

just about a few days to go until Christmas...

And believe it or not, for the past month I've been travelling once again, going back to great places, seeing fantastic people, and eating wonderful food, generally having a great time despite some distarbances such as some property loss (a flight delay, lost baggage, hassles talking to Italian authorities, and stolen goods including what had been meant to be Christmas gifts for friends and even camera equipment), computer breakdown (only one-and-a-half-year-old, wouldn't even turn on), a near recurrence of a chronic illness, car trouble on the motorway... oh well. Things happen. More importantly, I'm in one piece, well and happy.

As I am about to wrap up my trip, I thought I'd do a quick Christmas post here - I mean, I have (again) tons of Christmas-y photos from Christmas markets and other places, but these are what I've had over the past week or so:

Cranberry and Ginger Bread, from Whole Foods in Kensington. Ginger almost wasn't strong enough for me, but nice and Christmas-y nonetheless.

It was nice simply toasted, but even more festive with slices of apple and a dab of Sierra Rica chestnut paste from Spain, which happens to be one of my favorite chestnut product brands.

Those last slices that went slightly stale were soaked in custard infused with spices and orange zest, and baked along with fresh cranberries and apple that had been macerated in sugar and orange juice, making some nice bread pudding.

Apparently, there must have still been more cranberries and apples around, you might reckon - and you are so right. These apples were stuffed with a mixture of fresh cranberries and walnuts (and sugar and spices), and baked in apple juice to make a light breakfast/snack/dessert. A nice change from a more common stuffing that uses raisin, I think.

Now I didn't buy THAT big bag of cranberries, but I still had some, so there I wewnt: cranbery and rhubarb crumble with orange. The fruits were tossed in sugar and orange juice, while the crumble dough was flavored with spices and zest of orange. It may seem that I've been having pretty much the same stuff over and over, but that's the whole point of Christmas cooking I'd say... well almost.

So now, another one shouldn't hurt...

Mulled nuts; a mixture of nuts (a lot of them) such as pecans, almonds, cachews, and pistachios were coated in confectioner's sugar mixed with ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, as well as grated zest of orange and fresh ginger root. It's exactly like mulled wine, just with nuts instead of red wine, and yet just as festive and addictive. I made those a couple of times for Christmas last year for friends, and they seemed to be liked by many, so I made them again, this year for a Christmas Drinks that I was invited to. Since I haven't been baking my own Christmas cakes for the past few years, these nuts might just make my new Christmas baking tradition.

And believe it or not, with all these the highlights of my Christmas this year are pretty much over - it might sound a bit pathetic, but it's not; I've had a really, truly wonderful time for the entire one month leading up to Christmas. I hope that all of you have great, great Christmas, and the next time you come back you might see some of my musch belated Christmas photos from my travels...

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you all!