Tasty Tuesday–A Look Back at Festive Feasts and Holiday Baking

Can you stand one more look back at the holiday season? I hope so, because it’s time to wrap-up all of the festive feasts and baked goods I prepared from Thanksgiving through Epiphany!

Our Thanksgiving dinner was fairly standard, although I did make a second kind of stuffing, and instead of just roasted carrots, I made a blend of roasted winter vegetables (which did include carrots):

Our pick-out dinner is always my favorite meal of the year, and I thought it was extra special with the full charcuterie board I prepared:

Our fancy Christmas dinner (which we had on the Sunday after Christmas) featured beef Wellington:

Our New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar looked a little different this year, but it was still delicious!

Pork tenderloin is becoming something of a tradition on New Year’s Day:

And finally, our most recent “festive feast,” Ryan’s birthday dinner last week:

I made ten pies over the holidays (with a lot of help from the girls):

We baked more cookies than I can count, including several new varieties, my favorite of which was the Linzer Augen:

“Only” six cakes this time around (do Yule logs count as cakes?):

And some other assorted treats, including my first attempt at cannoli and gingerbread Oreo truffles:

It’s not like I’m going to stop cooking anytime soon, because we still need to eat, but I’m looking forward to planning some simpler meals for a bit!

The First Birthday of 2022

How lucky are we that we have Ryan’s birthday to celebrate so early in the year every year?!? Since his birthday also falls on Epiphany, it’s always a double celebration, as we have our last holiday meal of the festive season, too!

He picked chili for his birthday dinner last night, with all the fixin’s, plus fry bread, which everybody loves.

For his birthday cake, Ladybug and I tried a new recipe from The Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Cookbook for a “Chocobo Cake” which I can assure you was made with no actual chocobos. It was a vanilla-cardamom cake soaked in a lemon syrup and filled with strawberries and topped with vanilla whipped cream. It was very delicious!

I always feel like we’ve gotten the year off to a good start once we’ve had a birthday celebration!

Out with the Old, In with the New

Already it’s the second day of 2022! Here’s a look back at our New Year celebrations.

I found some hot cocoa rolls with marshmallow frosting for breakfast on New Year’s Eve…I thought it was the perfect way to start a day that features a hot chocolate bar!

We had pizza for dinner…I don’t know that we ever have the same thing two years in a row on New Year’s Eve!

After our annual viewing of Apollo 13, I set up our hot chocolate bar. Things were a little different this year due to various shortages…I couldn’t find speciality hot chocolate or peppermint candy canes (which I hear became very difficult to find this year), but we did have several other flavors (mint chocolate, raspberry, and wintergreen), and three kinds of whipped cream (regular, chocolate, and peppermint).

I did manage to stay up until midnight, but only so I could ring in the New Year on my island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

We had what is a fairly common dinner for us on New Year’s Day, starring pork tenderloin.

Chickadee helped me make dessert, featuring two different recipes from the My Little Pony Baking Book she received for Christmas:

I think we got the New Year off to a good start!

A More Normal Christmas

After what was a very strange and low-key Christmas last year, this year’s three-day Christmas celebration was closer to the normal we remember. We started the day on Christmas Eve by forgetting to eat the Christmas Crunch I had been saving specifically for that day. The Fab Five (specifically Turkey) finished building the Lego Millennium Falcon in the morning:

I found some time to play Animal Crossing and deliver gifts to all my neighbors:

We enjoyed Portillo’s for an early dinner before church:

And we got to go to church inside this Christmas Eve!

On the way home, we stopped to see the city of St. Louis Christmas tree and drove through the Way of Lights:

Of course I took pictures when we got home!

We lit the Advent wreath and had birthday cake:

And the Fab Five received their yearly gift of Christmas jammies…this year’s theme was gnomes!

I filled the stockings and made sure the tree and nativity scene were just right before I went to bed:

On Christmas Day morning we had our traditional Christmas coffee cake, plus the previously-forgotten Christmas Crunch:

We got to go to church on Christmas Day this year!

And I even had a chance to take a picture of the Fab Five without their masks before the service because we arrived so early and there was hardly anybody else there yet:

We opened presents after we got home:

And had the best meal of the year, the “pick out dinner.”

There were old favorites and a few new items:

I think the star of the meal, though, was the charcuterie board I put together, featuring salame roses:

Seriously, it’s the most delicious dinner ever!

And this morning, we were back at church, and again we had an opportunity to take a mask-free picture, this time of the whole family!

Tonight we had our fancy Christmas dinner, featuring beef Wellington:

It was also a delicious dinner (but not as good as the pick out dinner!).

For dessert I made both a gingerbread Yule log with sugared cranberries and a more traditional chocolate variety:

So this Christmas was still a little different, but more familiar than last year. I’m so grateful we had more opportunities for worship this year, and the ability to have family visit. Maybe next Christmas will be more normal still!

Reformation Day/Halloween 2021

Today was the rare occasion where Reformation Day/Halloween actually falls on a Sunday. We started the day at church, where we enjoyed some especially amazing music featuring hymns written by Martin Luther:

We went for a short walk in Forest Park after the service, where we enjoyed the beautiful fall colors (in spite of the wind):

I was so excited to pick up a box of Monster Mash cereal for the Fab Five for breakfast!

This afternoon, we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time, as well as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. For dinner, I made potato-parsnip soup, cheese and jam turnovers, and butterbeer…it was the perfect meal for today!

Dessert was the Jell-O Halloween Special, as advertised by Harlow Wilcox in the 1940s…”Looks like a dish of sunshine all dressed up, doesn’t it?”

I chose my costume in Animal Crossing: New Horizons with great care…I’m a hot dog!

I tracked down the Czar of Halloween right away.

I think my neighbors enjoyed the festivities, too!

This was a busier Halloween than most for us, and it was a very fun day!

Oktoberfest 2021

For the second year in a row, we didn’t get to go to the inaugural Great North American Oktoberfest in St. Louis (and at this point, I’m kind of thinking that the event will never happen), but we did have a happy Markel Family Oktoberfest at home! I started last week by assembling all of our favorite German foods from Aldi’s Deutsche Küche:

For lunch, we had cheddar and beer fondue with homemade pretzels, German pickles, and Nürnberger Bratwurst, plus more pretzels with beer mustard and nacho cheese sauce for those who don’t like fondue:

Dinner was schnitzel with optional Jäger sauce, spaetzle, sauerkraut, artichoke and cheese strudel, and red cabbage with apples:

And dessert was, of course, Black Forest cherry torte:

I also had a fun Oktoberfest celebration with my neighbors in Animal Crossing: New Horizons:

It wasn’t quite the Oktoberfest I had hoped for (again), especially after I derailed our pretzel-making to go to Urgent Care to have a splinter removed (that was unpleasant!), but it was a fun day of celebrating our German heritage!

A Japanese Feast for the Opening Ceremonies

It seemed at times like today would never come, but finally, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have begun! Whether or not they should be held no longer matters, because they’ve gone ahead, and as long as they Olympics are going on, I’m doing all of the things I meant to do last summer, starting with a special dinner for the Opening Ceremonies.

We started with homemade pork gyoza and rayu. I’ve made the gyoza before, but making the rayu from scratch was a new experience!

The main course was spicy ramen/udon with ajitsuke tamago (ramen eggs). The broth was made with dashi, kimchi, soy sauce, leeks, garlic, miso, gochujang, and shiitake mushrooms. It was served over spicy chicken and bacon, and topped with nori, bean sprouts, and green onions.

For dessert, I made coffee jelly:

We waited a long time to have this meal, but I think it was worth the wait!

May the Fourth Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day!

I promised the Fab Five that we would do something special to celebrate this year, especially since we were so excited about the premiere of The Bad Batch, so I planned a special Star Wars themed dinner featuring recipes from The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook. I chose stuffed “puffer pig”, roasted chando peppers, fried zuchii, and for the evening’s beverage, the cliff dweller:

For dessert, I made Bespin cloud drops (and we’ll just ignore the fact the I had to ask what Bespin is):

May the Fourth be with you!

Easter in the Time of COVID-19

Time for another look at a Markel Family holiday in the time of COVID-19!

Last year, I was all about keeping as many things as normal as possible for everyone. This year, I decided to embrace the new and different as much as I could. For starters, even though I’m now back to grocery shopping once a week instead of every two weeks, and could have bought hot cross buns from the bakery, I decided to make a batch again this year:

We went to our new church for the evening Maundy Thursday service to begin the Holy Triduum, and it was short, but very nice:

On Good Friday we were back at our new church for an equally moving (and equally short) Tenebrae service:

On Holy Saturday, we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter and made our Paschal candle for the year, as is our tradition. This one didn’t turn out so well, but it still gets the job done!

We attended the Great Vigil of Easter at our new church…I’m so glad they offer that service. More of it was spent outside than we are used to, and that was really nice!

After church, instead of getting sundaes from McDonald’s like we usually do, we got Frosty’s and fries at Wendy’s, and I introduced the Fab Five to the culinary experience that is dipping the fries in the Frosty:

We didn’t have a sunrise service this year, but I was still up early enough to see the sunrise:

And even though we didn’t need to leave the house super-early, I still bought our traditional Pop-Tarts:

It was a beautiful morning!

I took pictures of the Fab Five in the garden outside of church:

Since I couldn’t really take pictures of them inside the church (and especially by the baptismal font) like I usually do, I did that the day of Chickadee’s confirmation:

Our new church is beautiful!

After church, we came home and made Easter breakfast…eggs and sausage, English muffins, pomegranate juice, and every flavor of mini donut I could find…seven varieties. Maybe we’ll be able to go to Easter breakfast at church again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to have the meal at home!

I may have completed all of the Bunny Day goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, but I still checked in with Zipper T. Bunny:

We had fun watching some of our favorite Easter movies today, including My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Easter Parade, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. While we did that, I made sure the table looked pretty for dinner:

And made our Easter feast for dinner. I tried a new leg of lamb recipe in the crock-pot, which was both amazingly delicious and easy. We also had Greek potatoes, carrot fritters, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, breaded artichokes, cherry Jell-O, and popovers:

For dessert, I made carrot cake Oreo truffles:

No matter what stays the same or what is different from year to year, our reason for celebrating remains constant. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

St. Patrick’s Day in the Time of COVID-19

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Can you believe this is the second time we’ve celebrated this holiday in the time of COVID-19?!? Of course, last year, we really didn’t know what we were in for yet, and this year, we’re all hoping that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but either way, our family celebration remained largely unchanged, although this year, we did start celebrating pretty early in the month with Shamrock Shakes (almost impossible to find in our area this year, so when we did pinpoint a location that was offering them, we jumped on it!) and a Green River Soda cheesecake from Eli’s:

We started the day with Lucky Charms and the leprechaun trap…spoilers, we didn’t catch him (again!)!

We read all of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day books, watched all of the Ireland episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe we have on disc, and also watched Aerial Ireland. I really enjoyed “Shamrock Day” in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While it wasn’t a huge event like some, there were some special items, including what look suspiciously like Shamrock Shakes!

I also enjoyed giving a few of my favorite neighbors a Shamrock Suit to match mine:

The highlight of the day (for me at least) was dinner. I love corned beef and cabbage and all the trimmings!

And of course we had Guinness cake for dessert, which is a family favorite!

We had a nice St. Patrick’s Day, as we always do, but I really hope that next time the holiday rolls around, things in the world are a little more normal!