Christmas Recap and Cooking Notes

I hope you and yours had a blessed Christmas. Ours was the nicest one we’ve had in years…which was pretty easy to achieve since it’s the first time the Man hasn’t spent Christmas working at the hospital in three years! While we try to hold special occasions loosely in our hands and not get too attached to celebrating on the “right” date, it was so nice to be able to celebrate the actual holiday together for once. This was our first Christmas together as a family since we’ve had kids. As I’m sure any household with a member who has a medical/military/emergency services/non-business hours job can relate, you really do treasure special days together that much more because they are so rare.

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This Christmas we had extra reason to celebrate because the Man’s mother was able to join us and meet all her grandchildren for the first time. Due to a combination of medical constraints, very slow bureaucratic adoption channels delaying passports, leave cancelled by the Army, another adoption, and another year’s wait for finalization for the next passport, we had been unable to take the kids to Canada to meet her, and she was unable to fly here. This Christmas Granny and grandkids were finally all together! She had quite the adventure getting here as her connecting flight from Washington, DC to our city was cancelled. Thankfully a Christmas Good Samaritan stepped in with a car she’d rented after her own flight was cancelled, drove my mother-in-law down, and dropped her exhausted but safe at our door at two in the morning.

After a Christmas breakfast of eggs, (store bought) cinnamon rolls, and berries we read the Christmas story and had a somewhat hectic morning opening presents (gift triage for six people with frenetic over-stimulated toddlers) then calmed down with a walk in the unseasonably warm weather. The afternoon was more relaxed, with peaceful time enjoying new gifts while the toddlers napped, calls to family, chatting on the driveway while the kids rode their bikes, a simple but delicious (if I do say so myself) Christmas dinner, and an evening playing viciously competitive Rummikub after the kids went to bed.

Because I don’t want to forget the recipes, here’s what we had for Christmas dinner:

  • Standing Rib Roast I used a slightly smaller roast and dried thyme, added a tablespoon of \dry mustard powder to the rub, doubled the sauce, and thickened it just slightly with a tablespoon of cornstarch in water, but otherwise followed the recipe. Fantastic mouth-watering roast! This will be my go-to recipe in future years. If rib roast weren’t such an expensive treat in and of itself I would gladly eat this every week for the rest of my life.
  • Creamed Spinach Definitely rich and not an everyday food, but also delicious! I started from this recipe, then followed suggestions in the comments to add a shallot, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 cup shredded parmesan. Steam a large quantity of spinach about one minute until just wilted (I skipped removing the stems), melt 1 Tbsp butter in a pan over medium-high heat, saute a diced shallot until just translucent, add 1 Tbsp flour and stir one minute, stir in 2/3 cup cream (or mixed cream and milk) and cook stirring constantly two minutes to thicken. Add 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Stir in 1/4 cup parmesan, then add the spinach, mix thoroughly, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Much better than my previous recipe for creamed spinach.
  • Roasted potatoes and portobello mushrooms with garlic and rosemary We actually have this on a regular basis as a vegetarian main meal, and I make it a bit differently every time. In general, either scrub a bunch of fingerling potatoes or scrub and cube regular potatoes. Pop into a pan of salted boiling water for 7-10 minutes, then drain. Clean an 8 oz pack of fresh baby portobello mushrooms (can halve or quarter if they’re large). Dice 2-3 cloves garlic. Toss potatoes, mushrooms, and garlic into a 13×9 pan – you want a good amount, but a little room between the veggies as they won’t brown if overcrowded. If things are heaping on top of each other, pull out an extra pan. Tear the leaves off a stalk or two of rosemary and sprinkle over the dish, then liberally shake olive oil, salt, and pepper over it all and stir. Pop in a 375 oven for about half an hour until everything is nice and golden brown and sizzly, stirring occasionally. The oven temperature I use varies a lot based on what else is cooking in the oven at the moment. If you want it browner at the end crank the oven temp up a bit to finish things off.

We had our dinner with champagne (which I forgot to chill). I meant to make an almond apple tart, but gave in to reason and exhaustion and settled for some extra vanilla ice cream we had in the fridge topped with leftover berries from breakfast and some Christmas cookies. It was a nice blend between rich foods that felt special, and not so many dishes that cooking and washing up took half of the holiday.

Two days later after the Man’s mother had left for Canada and his teenage sisters arrived for a few days I used the leftover ribs to make soup, starting loosely from this recipe. Placed the ribs and one last leftover bit of meat in a large pot, filled with water to cover, brought to a boil, then left to simmer, covered, about two hours with occasional checks. Pulled the meat out and pulled it off the bones and cut it up, then put it in the fridge to wait. Brought the broth to a full boil and kept it going til reduced by about 1/2. Poured in an extra quart of beef broth, the reserved meat, 8 oz mushrooms, a couple peeled and chopped carrots, three or four peeled and chopped potatoes, a couple stalks of rosemary, some thyme, a few diced cloves of garlic, baby onions (peeled first by cutting an x in the end, dropping in boiling water for a minute, then slipping the skins off) and some worcestershire sauce, then simmered it all about 20 minutes and salted and peppered to taste. It was tasty the first night, but was awesome the second night when I remembered to stir in some of the sauce from the original roast (a red wine/beef broth/browned pan bits sauce). Definitely made the difference between a nice regular soup and something special. We got about 8 adult-sized servings out of it, although this could easily vary depending on how much you thin it with broth or how many extra veggies you use.

We’re not doing anything special for New Year’s Eve as the Man is on call at the hospital. Nobody has energy to party after wrangling tiny children solo for twelve hour stretches, or dragging home from the wards late at night with a 4:00a.m. alarm for work the next morning. We shall celebrate by sleeping. May you have a happy, lovely, and blessed New Year!

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2 thoughts on “Christmas Recap and Cooking Notes

    • I hope you had a good holiday as well. Rummikub is fun but quite contentious in our household because we grew up with two different variations of the rules and are each positive our version is right (and of course, nobody will look up the rules because then we might have to admit we were wrong). Really, though, the smack talk and rule debates just makes it even more fun :). Happy New Year to you and the rest of your crew!

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