Happy Almost-Xmas, Everyone!
Last weekend, we had a really fun pre-holiday dinner party to celebrate Christmas with our pals, before everyone scoots off in different directions for the holidays. For the past several years, we've had a Vegan Christmas Cookie Exchange, but this year, I was in the mood for a gathering with a slightly healthier angle. I think a few of my pals were a little sad (ha ha!), but once we settled on a Mexican Christmas Dinner, spirits were lifted again!
2 Types of Tamale: Black Bean & Butternut Squash
My friend Sophia came over early to help out in the kitchen. She and I always have a great time cooking together. We made two types of mini tamales. The first variety used the black bean filling from Veganomicon, and the other variety was our own concoction, based very loosely on this recipe: in ours, we used butternut, green chilies, sauteed scallions, TreeLine herb cashew cheese, orange zest (yum!), chipotle and some spices. We also included some butternut in the masa, which was fun! They were great!
My pals brought along many excellent contributions to dinner: a wonderful Southwestern Chopped salad with a super tasty dressing, a ginormous bowl of guac (food of the Gods!), and a giant bowl of curtido (from Viva Vegan) -- which we all agree was really, really delicious.
Speaking of Viva Vegan, what a great book. Several years ago I had made this Green Posole from VV, and I hadn't ever forgotten how much we both enjoyed it. The original recipe called for seitan, but we had a beloved gluten-freebie in attendance, and so I subbed tempeh. I cubed the tempeh and browned it for a while in a dry skillet. It was a really great substitute! I really, really recommend this recipe. It's packed full with flavors, veggies, and excellent textural variety (chewy hominy, chunks of tempeh, ground pepitas... so good).
My dinner (round one)
Salad, one of each tamales, curtido, guac, posole, and horchata! I'm mostly showing this picture so that you can see the salad in all its glory, and see the unwrapped tamales.
Beverage options GALORE.
Ha ha ha ha. One excellent part of this part was that we had one million beverage choices. I used some coupons that Califia Farms had sent me a long time ago for a bottle of free Horchata and free Agua Fresca. At the time, I couldn't track either of these down in Santa Cruz, so the coupons floundered in my purse. I'm so glad I tried again because we all liked both of these drinks -- especially the horchata!
I also had a bunch of excellent seasonal drinks that So Delicious had sent me: the Nog, Mint Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice. It was really fun to share some of my blogging bounty with my special pals, and it was fun to try all these together and share out thoughts and opinions. That Mint Chocolate is my top favorite - in fact, I had to go buy another pint, because I had already finished off the one they had sent me. Hee hee.
I also got a giant bottle of Topo Chico - a super delicious sparkly water from Mexico that I fell in love with when I was in Austin earlier this year. That whole bottle disappeared before any of the other drinks, so I'm not the only one who loves Topo Chico!
This Spiced Cranberry Agua Fresca caused a bit of a discussion - none of us had ever had anything like it before! The general consensus was that it was really good. It's light and not too sweet, and spiced with the same kind of spices that you might have in apple cider. Worth a try. The horchata comes in two flavors, and I chose Classic Cinnamon, which was a universal hit. I preferred it with about 50% plain unsweetened almond milk mixed in. I'll definitely buy this again.
Footie is a party animal.
Apple & Spiced Quince Crisp
For dessert, we made a nice apple crisp, based loosely on the recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook. Except that in addition to apples (from my tree!), I also used some spiced quince that I had preserved a couple of months ago. This really wasn't in anyway keeping with our Mexican food theme, but it was delicious and seasonal and also was also an easy dessert to make gluten-free for our special gf'er.
Simple Paper Crafts for Xmas
After dinner we had some crafty fun together! First, we started with some simple paper doves that I learned how to make from my mom when I was a little girl. They are easy to make and are also really pretty. Next, we graduated up one difficulty level and moved on to paper snowflakes, which are probably my favorite Xmas craft of All Time. I like making them super-intricate. This year I was especially proud of my "MERRY XMAS" one (lower left), and my cat-themed one (top center). After the snowflakes we moved one step higher on the complexity scale and tackled Danish Paper Hearts. This is another craft I learned as a little girl, and I love them so much. Here is a link if you can figure it out. Once you get the hang of it, they're really easy, and so pretty. I saw lots of ideas for really complicated ones online, so I want to try that next!
can you spot Santa Snoopy, Stevie and Yummers?
Hanging out with nice pals and making crafts and drinking yummy beverages and eating yummy food is pretty much my idea of heaven on earth. I feel so lucky to have such kind and interesting friends!
I also feel so lucky that so many of you continue to read my blog. I enjoy blogging so much, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun without such a warm and engaged reading audience. I was really moved by so many of the kind and thoughtful comments on my last post... I wish I could send everyone a cookbooklette! But, I don't have that many left, so as promised, I've selected 15 lucky winners:
Becky, Glenn Jones, MollyJade
Carole, Josiane, Lydia
Jesse.Anne.O, Kim, Beverlee
Diana Djuari, Mia, Janeen
Julia Rapini, Leslie, Jacquie A.
I've got many more posts headed your way: Christmassy stuff, product reviews, culinary projects, weeknight dinners, winter garden fun, and more!