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Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Perfect Christmas Sugar Cookies

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Is it even Christmas without cookie decorating?

I know it’s not really a thing in Ireland. The Irish I’ve spoken to about this largely believe an iced sugar cookie, or even gingerbread cookie, is a bit too sweet. I wholeheartedly disagree with this.

In Ireland, kids leave Santa mince pies as a snack. Mince pies! I wholeheartedly disagree with this.

The longer I reside in Ireland, naturally, the more Irish I become in my through process. I’ve noticed this. But there are some things I’ll never let happen; Christmas is a nostalgic time of year. When you think of your happiest times as a child, it’s generally Christmas most of us think of. I definitely do.

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When I was little, my brothers and I always went to Christmas Eve church service with our parents. Then we would go to our neighbour’s for a visit, then when I got a bit older I would go to spend time with my aunt and her family before heading home to my bed.

In the morning, as a kid, we could go down to see what Santa brought us but we were never, under any circumstances, allowed to touch the wrapped presents under the tree until my parents and my grandma, who was confined to a wheelchair, would get up and join us.

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I think my favourite Christmas was the one where I got my cat, Belle. My dad brought her over to me after we had opened all of our gifts. I couldn’t figure out why there was a basket for a pet under the tree and assumed it was for our dog. When my dad went out Christmas morning and came back with a kitten, I was over the moon with happiness.

“Santa got caught in a storm last night and had to leave her at the Scherzinger’s,” he said.

Belle would go on to live for a whopping 22 years, despite (or maybe in spite of) my mother not being a cat person. She was a great cat.

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It’s been hard to adapt to Irish Christmas traditions because my happy Christmas memories are all Canadian. But since my daughters have gotten a bit older, it’s gotten easier to adapt to Irish Christmas. I am at peace with having to make both turkey and ham for Christmas dinner (though I refuse to make Irish trifle, with canned fruit cocktail, jello and store-bought sponge cake). We have started our own Christmas traditions with the kids and it gets more fun every year.

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This year, as always, we will be making loads of gingerbread and sugar cookies. We’ll invite a bunch of kids over to the house and let them go crazy with the royal icing and sprinkles. Their parents will hate me, but it’s all in good fun.

Here’s my recipe for the perfect sugar cookie. A good sugar cookie, in my opinion, should have defined edges, taste better with age (I even like them straight from the fridge or freezer) and it absolutely MUST BE ICED. If the cookie is too sweet, you’re doing it right.

Christmas is all about being too sweet.

Enjoy!

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Perfect Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter

A pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • Whisk flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt.
  • In a stand mixer (paddle attachment) or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and mix to combine. Add the vanilla and mix again.
  • Add the flour mixture in by the cup, slowly, until everything is combined. Dough will be crumbly at first and then comes together.
  • Gather the dough by hand. Knead a few times to smooth out the dough.
  • Shape into two discs and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180˚C and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness, then cut into shapes.
  • Transfer to the baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes (you don’t want them to brown too much around the edges – you still want them to be fairly white in colour).
  • Cool and decorate with royal icing, sprinkles or piped buttercream.

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Newfie-style Turkey Pie

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Happy New Year!

The holidays were a bit of a whirlwind for me. My 1.5 year old learned about, and quickly mastered the art of, opening presents. I fed eight family members and one Taiwanese co-worker on Christmas Day. I worked right up until Christmas Eve because, in the food industry, Christmas is always the busiest, most wonderful time of the year (also, I just love making cranberry sauce – can you blame me?!). Oh, and I didn’t wrap anything until the very last minute (egg nog in hand, House of Cards playing on Netflix).

I used to feel indifferent about Christmas in Ireland. I wasn’t into most Irish traditions because they felt foreign to me. This year, it felt different. Maybe it’s because I have a kid and these Irish traditions will be hers, or maybe I’m just feeling more at home in Ireland. It could also be the fact that I haven’t been home to Nova Scotia for Christmas in nearly five years. It doesn’t matter. The point is, I was looking forward to it this year, and it was a wonderful holiday.

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Christmas Eve was all about having drinks, playing games and being with family. Christmas Day was all. about. the. turkey.

And it was a really good turkey.

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I could go on about the fact that it was brined to perfection, or stuffed with herbs and lemons & basted in butter, but that would only be half the story.

In reality, a mere week before Christmas I was freaking out worried about where I’d get my turkey. It was crunch time and after a very long online search for the perfect, free-range bronze turkey I was still unsure about what to do. It’s hard buying something online when you have no idea what it will look like when it arrives at your door.

I was just about to click “send” and hope for the best, when Imen McDonnell of the acclaimed Irish blog Farmette sent out a random tweet. She was wondering if anyone wanted one of her turkeys for Christmas, as she just had them butchered and had two left to sell. This solved my problem.

Having read about these turkeys on her blog, I knew she loved them, that they had a good life and that they were definitely the size she said they were. I asked her to save one for me, sent Patrick to collect the bird from her a few days later and that was it.

The verdict on Christmas Day? It was the best turkey any of us had ever had.

Imen, I think the love and effort you put into raising your little fellas made the ultimate difference. Thanks for letting me take one of your precious flock.

Anywho.

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I still have leftover turkey in my freezer from our Christmas feast, and more of this pie is in its future. While Patrick, Maeve and I were in St. John’s this past summer, someone (aka the wonderful Stephen Lee from Mallard Cottage) told us we should go to Fabulous Foods for our lunch. It’s kind of a takeaway/deli on Merrymeeting Road (well off the trodden path) and is a favourite local haunt – mostly because of their addictive turkey pie and generous servings of fries, dressing & gravy (real Newfoundland food).

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Months after being there I still daydream about this pie – the flaky crust, moist (but not soupy) filling, the fact that you can eat it with or without utensils. We were with my best bud from university & her partner. We took our pies to a local park and ate while Maeve crawled around. It was a great day to begin with, but the pie made it better (how many times have I ended a sentence with that?).

This recipe is just me having go at re-creating the pie. It’s a pretty decent effort, but I haven’t had any Newfies around to taste-test so can’t be sure. The pies at Fabulous Foods are smaller as they’re meant to be an entire portion, while this one feeds 8-10 people.

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Newfie-style Turkey Pie

Ingredients:

1 recipe shortcrust pie dough (use butter!)

2 cups cooked, shredded turkey

2 cups cold stuffing (yup, the stuffing from Christmas dinner!), roughly chopped

2 cups gravy (again, I used leftover gravy from Christmas dinner)

Handful or fresh sage, finely chopped OR 2 tsp dried savory 

1 cup frozen peas

1 Tbsp butter

Sea salt & pepper, to taste

1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  • Make your pie dough, divide in half & chill for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough chills, melt the butter in a big pan. Add the shredded turkey, stuffing, sage or savory & gravy. Cook slowly until everything comes together to a simmer. Take off the heat. Season to taste.
  • Add the frozen peas to the mix and toss. Set aside.
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees Celsius, no fan).
  • Roll out one half of the pie dough. Use it to line the bottom of a large pie pan.
  • Add the turkey filling to the pie pan (don’t worry if it looks like it’s too much).
  • Roll out the other half of the pie dough and place over the top of the pie pan. Lightly press the edges of the pie dough together, trim the excess dough (leaving about 1/2 inch of overhang), fold the edges inwards and flute or press down with a fork. Cut a few slits in the top of the pie so steam will be able to escape.
  • Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. Serve with mashed potato (and, if your chives are growing in January like mine are, add some to the mash).

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Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!

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