Christmas isn’t my holiday. I remember the Christmases of my childhood. My large Italian family gathered together to eat and laugh and celebrate all together on Christmas Eve followed by my large German family gathering together on Christmas day to do more of the same. My parents both came from large families. I myself have four sisters. Yet, Christmas is a lonely time for me these days.
It started when I was still a child. Family slowly moving across the country. Then, it was my dad’s turn to move for work, and family Christmases became a special occasion and then a distant memory. Still, I spent Christmas with my parents, my siblings, my in-laws. Then, the invitations came less and less as the years went by.
This year, no one even asked what our plans were for Christmas. My father dropped off a couple gifts a few days before Christmas. He didn’t stay long. He didn’t take off his coat. He didn’t sit down. He simply handed over the gifts, watched the kids open them, and then rushed out the door to run some important errand for one of my sisters.
Christmas Eve brought the in-laws. They brought gifts for the kids. They didn’t take off their coats, either. However, my mother-in-law did sit down for a few minutes before they left. This is mostly due to her health preventing her from standing for long periods of time.
Needless to say, Christmas is an extra chore for my husband and I. When you don’t have family to connect with, when your cousins won’t be there to play with while the grown-ups sit around and talk, what do you do for Christmas fun?
We play games, watch movies, and eat lots and lots of delicious food. This year’s menu was actually small compared to previous years. It also featured less of my homemade goodies. I didn’t make a single candy this year. That’s my Christmas trademark… homemade turtles, apple cider caramels, and various other candies and treats. This year, I stuck to cookies. However, they were quite an interesting collection of cookies.
I started with the traditional chocolate chip cookies. I use the recipe on the Nestle site. This is one of my favorite cookie recipes. At Halloween, I replace the chocolate chips with various candies.
I asked my family what desserts they wanted for Christmas. My husband wanted apple pie, so I made apple pie cookies. My daughter wanted carrot cake. I was delighted to find a recipe on the Land O’ Lakes website. My son was interested in a raspberry cheesecake. So, I came up with these raspberry cheesecake thumbprint cookies. I also attempted to make peppermint bark, but it went very wrong. Very delicious, but very wrong.
Christmas Eve Dinner
For dinner on Christmas Eve, I made an old family recipe. However, for the first time ever, I made it in my crockpot. That little device came in very handy over the holidays this year. I served Italian beef sandwiches with a side of oven roasted potatoes (butter plus a blend of garlic and herb and Italian seasoning) and oven roasted carrots (butter plus garlic and herb). We walked away pretty stuffed.
For Christmas dinner, I decided on the traditional ham. This I also cooked in my slow cooker, though it was a wee bit more tricky. I placed a half a cup of brown sugar in the bottom of my slow cooker. I placed a spiral sliced ham, cut side down, on top of that. I poured in 3 cups of cranberry juice (Ocean Spray’s 100% juice) and sprinkled in another 1/2 cup of brown sugar. I covered the parts of the ham that were above the liquid with honey. I am not sure how much honey I used, just applied it like a glaze straight out of the bottle. The ham was too large for the lid to go on. Instead, I used four layers of foil to trap in the heat. I cooked it on low for about five hours. I wasn’t entirely trusting of the foil. I set the lid on top of it during that five hours. I then had my husband slice it and return the slices to the slow cooker. I then secured the lid and cooked it on high an additional hour to be sure it was heated thoroughly.
I served the ham with my creamy baked homemade macaroni & cheese. I made it with 2 cups of Colby and 2 cups of Monterrey Jack. I also served twice baked potato casserole. I mashed up a mixture of red and yellow potatoes. I blended that with heavy cream, butter, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and a little garlic powder. I baked it alongside my macaroni & cheese, uncovered. I served dinner rolls and mandarin oranges, too.
Overall, we had a pretty great Christmas, just the four of us, hanging out and eating great food. The kids were happy with their gifts and Santa nailed it again this year. My daughter made me the awesome brain. We watched Mickey’s Christmas movies and Santa Claus, and the kids played their new video game Santa brought. We talked and we laughed and we connected.
I’m not sure what our New Year’s plans are, but whatever they are they will be spectacular for us. I am certain we will make our traditional New Year’s punch. I recently came across a brownie butter cake recipe that I’m thinking of giving a try. Traditionally, I have done appetizers to snack on with our punch at midnight. I’m thinking cake, instead. Not sure if I will cook up anything else. We’ll see.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and celebrates a wonderful new year.