It's all about the food! What are you serving this year? Your tried-and-true Christmas cocktails? New appies or old favorites? Which side dishes are a must-have beside your goose or turkey? And how about those desserts?
Each character in my fictional family has their favorite holiday dish they look forward to every December. Here's a peek at what they can't wait to tuck into - along with recipes for anyone here who might want to share a drink or a appetizer with their favorite character.
The matriarch of Within The Summit's Shadow, Dez McBrien is mother not only to Elizabeth, her daughter, but also to whoever else she meets who might need a Mom. When she's not busy parenting, Dez is also a full time RN in the Jasper Hospital and as such--being a medical professional within a tourist town in the Rockies - Dez sees a lot of calamities; everything from skiing snafus to hypothermia to hikes gone to the bears (literally!) have come through her Emergency doors.
Given everything Dez does all day, every day, it's no wonder she loves to settle down every Christmas Eve (when she's not on shift) with one of these -- a Jack Frost Cocktail; sweet and exotic, yet still the cool, winter color of the mountains which surround her during the holidays, and all year round.
Jack Frost Cocktail
Light corn syrup or honey for rimming glasses
Flaked coconut for rimming glasses
8 cups ice (more or less depending on desired consistency)
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup blue curacao
1/2 cup vodka or light rum (I used vodka)
1/2 cup cream of coconut
Rim the glasses: Pour a thin layer of corn syrup onto a plate and dip the rims into the corn syrup, then dip in coconut flakes.
In a blender, blend ice, pineapple juice, blue curacao, vodka and cream of coconut until desired consistency is reached. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
But any good nurse (and Dez is an excellent RN) knows it's a bad plan to drink on an empty stomach. Lucky for her -
Has an excellent recipe for a dip that makes its round to most appetizer tables at Christmas time, yet is nonetheless something most people never tire of. Shaynie makes Surprise Spread every year at Divinity's Solstice Open House (half-off Tarot readings and seasonal upcycled decor!) and it never fails to be a big hit with her patrons. This year she's bringing it to her family's Christmas celebration - and she's tossing a clear, colored stone of gratitude in a jar before she arrives, for Shaynie remembers way back when she and Andrew used to be the orphaned refugees at Dez's Christmas table. Now she is delighted to take turns hosting Christmas Dinner with her brother for their ever-expanding (and wildly eclectic!) family. Here's her recipe:
1 eight ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 four ounce cans small shrimp, drained well
1 250ml jar seafood cocktail sauce
1 green bell pepper diced
4 green onions diced
1 large tomato diced
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese mixed
Beat together the cream cheese, sour cream and mayo until smooth and creamy. Spread out on a large plate with an edge or in a 9×13 pan.
Spread the seafood sauce over the cream cheese mixture gently.
Sprinkle the shrimp over top of the sauce in an even layer.
Layer the remaining ingredients however you like. I usually go green peppers, tomatoes, a little cheese, green onions and then the rest of the cheese.
Refrigerate until serving.
Serve with Ritz crackers for the BEST taste, but this also works with tortilla chips!
Because he is still under-age, there is no way Andrew and Elizabeth will allow
To have a cocktail even if it is Christmas! And Surprise Spread is delicious, but it is by no means enough to fill the belly of a teenage boy. So Kyle - reaching back to skills learned when he was a part-time cook at The Kodiak, (a pizza joint in Jasper) - makes a specialty that combines the best of both teenage-palate worlds: pizza & cheeseburgers - and serves it to his beloved adoptive family on Christmas Eve. Here's Kyle's recipe for
Dill Pickle Hamburger Pizza
1/2 pound ground beef
1 pre-baked 12-inch pizza crust (or your own recipe)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded lettuce
1/2 cup chopped dill pickle
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 to 3 tablespoons dill pickle juice
Preheat oven to 425°. In a large skillet, cook and crumble beef over medium heat until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes; drain.
Meanwhile, place crust on an ungreased baking sheet or pizza pan. Mix ketchup and mustard; spread over crust. Add ground beef; bake 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese; bake until cheese is bubbly and crust is lightly browned, 8-10 minutes longer.
Top with lettuce, pickle and onion. Whisk mayonnaise and enough pickle juice to reach desired consistency; pour over pizza.
Now that everyone has a little bit of food in their bellies to offset some of those Jack Frost Cocktails Dez served us at the beginning, it might be time to try another drink! Ethereal
is nothing if not whimsical, and she most certainly has a robust—and sometimes ironic—sense of humor. In Divinity & The Python, Cameron, upon requesting a Tarot reading from mystical Cele (and seeing her arrive decked out in a flowing silken caftan and scarves) whispers, to Shaynie “Is she floating?” to which Shaynie, amused by how agog he is, replies (deadpan) “Possibly.”
Neither of them thought Cele heard them, yet when polled as to what her favorite Christmas indulgence is, the following is the recipe she shared. No surprise that it is a cocktail—and trust Cele’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor to choose a ‘float’. I’d suspect she will want Cameron to toast her with one of these delicious beverages:
3 parts Malibu Rum
4 cups Frozen Pineapple
1 scoop Coconut Ice Cream
Blend the Malibu Rum and frozen pineapple in a blender until a slushy consistency is achieved. (Do not add water as you will lose the fun frozen feel of the drink!)
Pour into a frosted mug, and top with a scoop of coconut ice cream.
Easy and delicious.
Now it's time for the main meal!
Elizabeth struggled hard with her weight as a kid, and it did not help that Dez was an excellent cook whose savory dishes made everyone's mouth water. These days, Elizabeth is very choosy about what she eats, and she lives a life of relentless discipline (after all, she is a classical guitarist who performs regularly in resplendent silk and taffeta ball gowns - nothing she wants winding up being too tight to zip into!). Nevertheless, Christmas calls for setting strictness to the side, and as such, Elizabeth always asks Dez to include the following, delectable side dish as part of the Christmas meal:
Savory Hashbrown Casserole
2 pounds frozen diced or shredded potatoes
3 cups cheddar cheese grated
1 1/2 cups homemade cream of chicken soup or 1 10-ounce can storebought
2 cups sour cream
6 tablespoons butter melted
1 bunch green onions sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Lightly butter a 9×13 baking dish or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Stir together the diced potatoes, half of the cheddar cheese, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, melted butter, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Spread into the prepared baking dish.
Bake until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes and then top the hashbrown casserole with the remaining cheddar cheese. Return the hashbrown casserole to the oven until the cheese has melted.
Is another who has a strict regime of diet and exercise he has no choice but to follow. As a professional hockey player, Cameron's entire livelihood depends on his maintaining both impeccable physical conditioning and managing any excess weight. Like Elizabeth, though, Cameron sets aside his strict diet of high protein, lots of water, and strategic carb-loading at Christmas. And, much to my delight, he is the only one of my characters who specifically requests a recipe that is solely my own. Enjoy
Bonnie's Savory Slow-Cooker Stuffing
(all measurements are approximate):
6-8 Cups of coarsely broken bread crumbs
3-4 chopped stalks of celery
1/2 lb sliced, fresh mushrooms
1 large onion, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1-2 tins of canned peaches (with juice), chopped
3/4 cup butter, melted
Poultry seasoning, to taste (as much or as little as you like; I am very liberal with mine)
Chicken broth - again, the amount will depend on how many dry ingredients you have
Coat the inside of a slow-cooker with non-stick spray.
in a large bowl, mix breadcrumbs thoroughly with all ingredients except chicken broth - then moisten with chicken broth in order so that your stuffing is as moist or dry as you prefer.
Turn into the greased slow cooker, and set on low for 3-4 hours.
And we can't forget dessert! In Within The Summit's Shadow
(and in one really quick line in Divinity & The Python, where he eats jam on bread), you learned that
Has a notorious sweet tooth. In fact, even The Dead Boy tells him: "You eat like a kid, Defective." At Christmas time there are a lot of treat Andrew nags Dez to make (which she does; Andrew is as much her son as any biological child would be - so she indulges his every baking request despite her busy schedule at the Hospital. Sigh. See why poor Dez needs a drink?). But no treat is as coveted, by Andrew, than Dez's
Chocolate Butter Tarts
12 tart shells, unbaked
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. white vinegar
Heat oven to 450°F.
Place tart shells on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate onto bottoms of shells.
Whisk remaining ingredients until well blended; spoon into shells.
Bake 12 to 14 min. or until filling in each shell is puffed and bubbly, and pastry is lightly browned. Cool completely.
Enjoy the meal? Don't run away! Have Cele or Dez pour you another cocktail and, if you'd like, hop onto amazon and pick up one of my stories (or both!) to give as gifts over the holidays, and spend even more time with all of my beloved characters
Divinity & The Python - Where deception & desire dance in the dark . Paperback
Within The Summit's Shadow - Love waits within the Rockies...but so does murder