This past Saturday my aunt hosted Christmas for my dad’s side of the family. As a child this was done on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house, but as the family grew larger both in physical size and numbers it migrated to my aunt’s house. With everyone expanding their own families through marriage and children we also found it easier to have it either the weekend before or after Christmas rather than on the Eve. This worked out particularly well when Jason and I lived in Scranton.
The past two years I made a spinach dip that was rather good. This year I was looking to change it up and bring something new while also challenging myself a bit more. Enter the pine cone cheese ball. While the actual making of the cheese ball itself did not appear to be hard, the challenge would be in making it look as aesthetically close to the picture as possible. I am not known for my creativity in the kitchen, but I wanted to try anyway figuring if I failed I could always stop by the grocery store for a cheese platter to take. I discovered I did not have a serving platter, but fortunately my mom had one to borrow. I persuaded Jason to chop all the required herbs as I am still working on refining my chopping skills. He masterfully chopped them up fine and actually mixed the cheese ball for me. From that point I was on my own to tackle making it look like a pine cone. I had the forethought to put it in the fridge for about ten minutes though that was not listed in the instructions. The cheese ball had seemed quite soft and I was worried I would make a mess of it. When I began inserting the almonds it worked quite well having been chilled. I started around the middle of the cheese ball as I was uncertain how many almonds it would require to cover it and knowing the crackers would hide anything below it. As I filled it in and the pine cone began to appear I became really excited. After some final tweaking I presented it to Jason who was rather impressed at how much it looked like a pine cone. My family found it rather unique (though my one uncle initially thought it was a hedgehog) and the wonderful taste of it ensured that I would be making it again in the future.
I wanted to bring dessert as well so I made a batch of brownies because they were so quick and easy. Also because I’m a chocoholic. My mom is not a big dessert fan but does enjoy white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, so I decided to make some of those as well. The recipe was in my AllRecipes magazine and listed that 1.5 cups of white chocolate chips could be substituted for the chopped white chocolate so that was the choice I made. I also had a slightly smaller amount of macadamia nuts than called for, but given how expensive they were I figured no one would notice a few less nuts. I managed to make 35 cookies from the recipe and timed them perfectly with 5 minutes on the lower rack and 5 minutes on the upper rack. Jason isn’t a fan of white chocolate and I’m not a fan of nuts in cookies, so neither of us sampled them prior to the Christmas party. That was not an issue though as everyone in my family who did have one really raved about them. My one uncle mentioned he tried making that type of cookies a few years ago, but it didn’t taste that good. When I was looking to get rid of them at the end of the night I had several eager takers; I had some brownies to bring home but no cookies!
Jason and I went to my parents’ house for Christmas Day dinner. They made the bulk of the food, but I did again make corn casserole and mashed sweet potatoes to share. It was certainly a busy holiday season of cooking/baking this year, more than I have ever completed in past years. I’m proud of my efforts in trying new recipes and look forward to trying out more in 2019!
Please note I am not affiliated with AllRecipes or 100DaysofRealFood. The fact that the recipes listed come from their websites is personal preference.
Did you make any new recipes during the holiday season? Do you have any recipes you make every season?