This is a guest post written by Andrea Karapas, a Food Blogger in Fort Collins, CO. She takes time away from her career as a Career Counselor to tap into her own passions: writing, food, and photography. I’m From Baklava and Ouzo…a love story launched a year ago as a way for Andrea to share her love for food through personal, heart-felt and sometimes humorous stories. Honoring her Greek heritage, she spotlights many recipes passed down through her family.
Ahhhh…the magic of the holidays, it moves us to display bounding amounts of generosity and love toward one another. There’s an energy in the air that moves our spirit and softens our heart. It goes beyond hearing our favorite carols, seeing our neighborhoods come to life with beautiful lights, and even our children’s annual visit to the awkward Santa Claus in the mall. It’s in the subtle moments that the magic happens: the light in your child’s eyes as they open the gift they really wanted most but never added to their list, the pride in her heart as you hang the handmade ornament your daughter made in 1st grade on the tree, and the kindness that’s shared in providing for a family less fortunate. Somehow, these moments pierce our very being like no other time of the year. The memories of the physical gifts we receive seem to fade quickly from year to year while the magical gifts of the spirit live on for us to share much later. They take on a deeper meaning and touch our soul.
My family has had many holiday traditions passed down through the generations and some new ones that we’ve created ourselves along the way. A favorite of mine that has been tucked away for nearly 20 years is the old tradition of lighting your walkway with luminaries on Christmas Eve. Adopted by the small town I grew up in, every house would line their sidewalk with candle-lit paper bags. Since my aunt and uncle would host Christmas Eve at their house, I’d take that magical walk from my house to theirs down the street that was lit at my feet. Add a light snowfall to that walk and it’s a memory burned into my heart.
I remember teaching my oldest daughter, Julia how to make paper snowflakes, sharing with her my shallow knowledge of the fact that no two snowflakes are alike, even when they’re created with paper and scissors. One year we covered all our windows with them and each one was as unique as she is.
Mexican layer dip is a long-standing tradition as an appetizer for my family during the holidays. If I added up all the Mexican layer dip I’ve eaten throughout my life over the years, there’s no doubt that it would add up to a disgustingly memorable amount. Though all those years put together couldn’t outshine the unforgettable Christmas Eve that my older sister, Angela, and I put away nearly the whole thing on our own. Hiding out in a room by ourselves, pretending to be in deep conversation, we indulged until we were repulsively ill. In these moments are the magic of the holidays. The time we spend with family, creating warmth, love and memories.
This feature highlights two of our recent favorite holiday treats, White Chocolate Party Mix and Peppermint Hot Cocoa. Both represent the holiday magic that happens when you bring individuals together. Alone, each ingredient is special…but together, they create magic. The White Chocolate Party Mix was discovered at a work-related holiday party. A dish to pass at the top of my “A List”, my friend, Christa, was a hit with this one. I nearly passed it up, heeding her warning that if I ate one piece, I’d be hooked forever. With Chex Mix, m&ms, and peanuts melted together with white chocolate, this is the closest to sinful that holiday treats can get.
Who doesn’t love hot cocoa during the holidays? Add in a World-famous Hammond’s Peppermint Candy Cane and you’ve got special drink. As beautiful as it is delicious, this piping hot cup full of goodness will warm your spirit and dissolve your stress from holiday shopping. Hammond’s Candies have been a Denver tradition since 1920 and if you haven’t been on a factory tour yet, add it to your holiday “To Do” list. Quickly becoming recognized throughout the world for their hand-crafted candy canes and other specialty candies, Hammond’s knows how to cater to a sweet tooth. Don’t miss their two-day annual Candy Cane Festival coming up this weekend on Dec. 9th and 10th.
Each year brings new memories and new traditions. Gifts will be exchanged and treats will be shared. Yet, it’s the magic that stays consistent throughout the years. I’ll be digging up some old traditions this season with the luminaries down my front walk way, paper snowflakes on my windows, and Mexican layer dip amongst the spread of goodies. But it’s the magic I’ll be watching for in my daughters’ eyes, in my partner’s laugh, and all the stories we’ll retell.
Martha Stewart’s Peppermint Hot Cocoa
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 quart milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
7 peppermint sticks; 3 crushed (1/4 cup), 4 left whole
pinch of salt
Place cocoa in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until cocoa has dissolved. Add chocolate chips and crushed peppermint; simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and peppermint have melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Add salt. Ladle into mugs; serve each with a peppermint stick.
Recipe from: Martha Stewart
Fresh Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted, or granulated sugar, to your taste
A few drops vanilla extract
About 15 minutes before you plan to prepare this topping, place a medium-sized bowl and the beaters from your electric mixer in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to proceed, pour the cream into the chilled bowl. Starting at medium speed, beat the cream until it starts to thicken. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the cream holds soft peaks. Add the confectioners’ sugar, stirring it in with the beaters so it doesn’t fly up in your face when you restart the machine. Continue to beat the cream until it is stiff but not grainy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed, no more than several hours.
Recipe from: Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie By~ Ken Haedrich
White Chocolate Party Mix
1 pound family bag Traditional Chex Mix
2 pound bag of plain m&ms
1-12 ounce tin of unsalted peanuts
2-12 ounce bags of white chocolate morsels
Preheat oven to 200°. Combine Chex Mix, m&ms, peanuts, and white chocolate morsels in a large disposable aluminum baking pan. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring often. When chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into entire mix, pour onto baking sheet lined with wax paper. Smooth into a thin layer. Place in freezer for at least 1 hour to harden. Beak apart and store in sealed container and in a cool area.
Recipe from: Christa Menning Johnson – Fort Collins, CO
Thanks Andrea! I can’t wait to try these yummy recipes. For more deliciousness from Andrea, visit her blog!