Christmas and Holiday Cooking

Christmas and Holiday Cooking

Hello and welcome to Christmas and Holiday Cooking. 

Gordon and Julie Christmas 2015_small

We hope that you will sit back, stay awhile and enjoy reading about some of our favorite holiday foods.  You might even be inspired to try some of the recipes for yourself.  Not all holiday foods have to be fattening in order to taste good.  We tend to lighten most of our recipes in order to make them healthier. 

Hope you enjoy. 

Christmas Table 2015 6_small

Happy Holidays!

Gordon and Julie


Christmas 2015

Christmas table option_small

Julie’s Christmas Dinner Plate

Julies Christmas Dinner plate 2015_small

I can just taste the history here.  Granted, it’s buried underneath the giblet gravy.


BTW:  That’s my wedding china.

Lots of traditions on this day.  We thank you for joining us and hope you stay awhile.


light up the surroundings_small

Our Christmas Dinner

Dressing Ham rolls and giblet gravy_small


Spiral Ham

delicious ham for Christmas_small

Cornbread Dressing

A history in this dressing_small

Giblet Gravy

The Christmas Ham and the Giblet Gravy_small

Homemade Cranberries/Sauce

Our Cranberry Sauce_small

Dinner Rolls

(not pictured)

Green Bean Casserole and Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

Dessert:  Pretzel Jello Salad

so perfect_small


Photos From Christmas

Julie Christmas Day making the dressing_small

 Making the Cornbread Dressing on Christmas Day

A history in this dressing_small

Traditional Southern Keith Family Cornbread Dressing

I had planned on making my great-grandmother Keith’s, and my grandmother’s cornbread dressing this year all by myself.  I just didn’t like the way Gordon has made it in the past.  He would use their recipe but he would, as I say, “Whann it up.”  And I didn’t want that.  I wanted the dressing the old fashioned, southern way that the Keith women in my family had made it, so I took on that project with great pride.  I even used my great-grandmother’s cast iron skillet, just like she would do. 

cast iron skillet of cornbread_small drying out the cornbread_small

That cast iron skillet above is about 100 years old.

I was very proud of my dressing that I made myself.  I made the corn bread two days in advance in that cast iron skillet and let it sit in a bowl getting stale, just like the women in my family would do.  I used cake flour with the corn bread just like my great-grandmother Keith would use.  That makes the cornbread all light and fluffy.

My Keith family traditional cornbread dressing_small

I felt as if I had lots of critical women glaring down on me this day.  But I came through, I did it for me, and for them.

If you would like the recipe for the corn bread and the southern dressing, then just visit our:

Corn Bread, Cast Iron Skillet, Dressing, and Tradition

then just click on the link above.

Christmas ham on the table_small

Gordon did make the best Christmas Ham

Cooking the Ham

This year I did a simple brown sugar and spice dry rub.  I used ~1 Cup of Splenda brown sugar along with ~1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp  ground cloves, 1/2 tsp cardamon, 1/2 tsp salt.  Mix all ingredients well and spread over the sides of your ham. 

Gordon adding the pineapple rings and the cherrys_small

Then I placed pineapple rings to the sides of the ham and affixed them using toothpicks.  I also placed two Marciano cherries within the center of the pineapple.  I cooked the ham at 350’F for 15 min. for every Lb the ham weighed.  Using a dry rub made a nice sweet crust on the outside of the ham.  The pineapple and cherries became caramelized and added good flavor to the ham.    

Our dining room Christmas table and atmosphere_small

Our Beautiful Dining Room

dining room 23_small

A Winter Wonderland in Florida

Christmas Table 2015 6_small

Our Christmas Table

I wanted it to look like a fantasy white Christmas.


Our Cookie Tree

Julie Cinderella Cookie Background_small

I Created a Cinderella Cookie Tree for Christmas

Cinderella table and tree_small Cindy cookies_small


Our Appetizers

esbandddoh_small our Christmas pu pus_small

We had the family over a few days before Christmas for some great appetizers.

Pictured above are my most favorite holiday foods, sausage balls, and drunken devils on horseback.

b and c dip_small Broccoli and Cheese dip with corn chips_small

Broccoli and Cheese Dip with Corn Chips

The Broccoli and Cheese Dip recipe I got from my grandmother in the early 80’s.  I think she went to a party where it was being served and she asked for the recipe.  Gordon has changed it around over the years to suit our tastes and he has eliminated things like garlic cheese and mushrooms from the original recipe.  This is a favorite of mine and Gordon’s that we continue to make it over the holidays every year. 

Broccoli and Cheese Dip

  • 1 Large Family pack of Frozen Broccoli
  • 4 T. Butter or Margarine
  • 1 Cup Chopped Onions
  • 6 Chopped Garlic Cloves, Chopped Fine
  • 16 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 Cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup

Allow broccoli to thaw and cook in the microwave for just a few minutes.  Drain the water.  In a sauce pan on the stove top, saute the onions and garlic in the butter or margarine until nice and soft on a medium heat..  Then cut your cheese up into chunks and add to the mixture to melt.  You may want to reduce your heat just a little.  Then add your cans of Cream of Mushroom soup and your broccoli.  Allow the mixture to cook for about 10 minutes on a medium low heat..  Serve hot. 

This is excellent eaten on top of a baked potato.  We however, like it as a dip served with corn chips.

You can thin it out with some milk if necessary.


Drunken Devils on Horseback

We’ve written about these in the past.   We originally got the recipe from Nigella Lawson’s, Nigella Christmas cookbook.

Nigella Christmas cookbook_small

Nigella Christmas

Nigella’s original recipe is to soak prunes overnight in Brandy and then wrap them in bacon and cook in the oven for 20 minutes until done. 

We went on to expand the recipe to include dried figs and dates as well.  Sometimes we even stuff the dates with a goat cheese before wrapping in bacon and cooking in the oven. 

This is now a Christmas staple in our home.


Sausage Balls

This recipe most everyone knows by heart and cooks each year.  Ours is nothing spectacular in the ingredients, but they are my favorite!  Whenever Gordon makes them I can eat them hot out of the oven, luke warm, or my personal favorite, cold right out of the refrigerator.


sausage balls my favorite_small

  • 4 Cups Biscuit Mix
  • 2 lb. Hot Sausage
  • 2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated

bisquick cheddar cheese and sausage_small this is the best sausage_small

This is the BEST sausage.

Just dump everything into a bowl and mix together with your hands.  Roll into individual bite-sized balls.  Place onto a cookie sheet and bake in a 350F oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until done.  They freeze very well too.


Our Cocktails

The Naughty and Nice

(Because everyone is naughty AND nice.)

N and N cocktail with cookies_small The naughty and nice cocktail_small

Gordon created an excellent cocktail himself.

This drink was really good and just right for us here in Florida.  I used 3 parts tangerine red grapefruit juice, 1 part triple sec, 1 1/2 parts Aperol, and 1/2 parts Vodka.  Place all in a shaker with a few ice cubes and shake well.  Garnish with an orange slice and a piece of licorice.


A piece of licorice represents the coal for when your bad, and the orange is for when you are good.

i do love my camera_small

The shortbread cookies were homemade and mailed to us from New Zealand by our friend Trish.  She and Bob also gave us the lovely glass plate the cookies are on.


The Giblet Gravy

Ham and giblet gravy_small

(This is yet another Keith family tradition.  Giblet gravy is made from the turkey giblets.)

Gordon always makes this gravy but he uses my great-grandmother’s recipe.  This gravy is excellent with turkey, of course.  We saved the giblets from our Thanksgiving turkey.

Recipe as written by my mother:

Boil an egg, wash the liver, heart and cleaned gizzard and neck.  Cover gizzard and heat with about 3 cups of cold water, add 1 t. salt and dash of pepper.  Simmer 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Add liver and simmer about 20 minutes more, until tender.

Take giblets out of broth and chop up fine.

boiling the turkey giblets_small ready for chopping_small

Cooked Turkey Giblets

Gordon making our giblet gravy_small

Gordon Cooking the Gizzards

turkey butt seasoning_small

Discard the Turkey Butt

Gordon chopping the giblets_small chop very finely_small

giblets and hard boiled egg_small

The Chopped Giblets and Hard Boiled Egg

Take the giblets out of the broth and chop up fine.  Put some of your fat drippings from the bird, (4 T.) in skillet.  Heat it and add 4 T. flour, stir.  Be sure to salt and pepper and add broth.  Use canned broth also if you don’t have enough.  I usually have to.  Always stir smooth after adding liquid.

giblet gravy in cast iron skillet_small adding the giblet and egg to the gravy_small

(The giblet gravy was made in the cast iron skillet as well.)

Keep adding liquid bringing to a boil after additions until gravy is thin as you want it.  Then add chopped giblets and boiled egg.  Also add some seasonings of thyme, sage, marjoram, and rosemary to taste.

Delicious Giblet Gravy_small

“Gravy’s Ready”!



Our Cranberry Sauce

ingredients for this years cranberry sauce_small

For this recipe I used 2 bags of fresh cranberries, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of Splenda baking sugar, 1 Tbsp orange rind,  1/4 cup pineapple juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

cranberrys on the stove_small

First, pour your cranberries, sugar, and water into a medium pot and bring it to a boil. 

beautiful cranberries_small

Using a splatter screen will prevent splattering when the berries start to pop open when they cook.  Be sure to stir this mixture some to ensure even cooking.

boiling on the stove top_small bring cranberries to a boil_small

Once the berries have mostly popped, turn the temp off and add your juices, rind, and cinnamon.  The mixture will be very hot for a while, so be sure to have plenty of time to let it cool before eating.

grating orange_small adding the orange_small

adding lemon_smallAdding the Orange Juice

Once done, the cranberry sauce will be jelly like as there is a good deal of pectin in cranberries. 

Trust me, this tastes much better than the sauce from the can!


Our Cranberry Sauce_small


The Most Delicious Dessert Ever

Pretzel Jello Salad

Pretzel Jello Salad ready to devour_small

This dessert is officially classified as a salad, but so many people that I know love it as a dessert.  Especially MEN!

so perfect_small

You guessed it!  The crust is smashed up stick pretzels, sugar and butter.

pjs 1_small pjs 2_small

I guess that I just can’t post enough photos of this.  🙂

It really is that good.

ingredients for the pretzel jello salad_small

Pretzel Jello Salad Recipe

  • 2-3 Cups Crushed Stick Pretzels
  • 1 1/2 Sticks Margarine, Melted
  • 3 T. Sugar (we used Splenda fine sugar)
  • 1 Large Box of Strawberry Jello
  • 2 Cups Boiling Water
  • 1 Pint Frozen Strawberries
  • 8 Ounces Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup Sugar (we used Splenda fine sugar)
  • 8 Ounces Cool Whip (we used sugar free Cool-Whip)

Crush the pretzels.  We used a plastic baggie and a wooden mallet to crush them.  You want nice small pieces, not crumbs.

crush pretzels in a baggie_small

(I use more pretzels than the recipe requires.)

crushing the pretzels_small you want them to be chunkey and not powdery_small

Crushing the Pretzels

  Then place into a shallow baking dish and add about 3 T. of sugar, and about half a stick of melted margarine.

put crushed pretzels in the bottom of the dish then add your melted butter and sugar_small bake for 10 minutes then cool_small

  Mix together and then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes on a 325F oven. 

baking the pretzel crust_small pretzel crust_small

Let the pretzel crust cool completely.

make the jello seperately_small add frozen strawberries_small

Now you prepare and strawberry jello, using the package directions.  That’s where the boiling water comes into play.  Add the frozen strawberries and refrigerate.  You don’t want the jello to fully harden.  Only to thicken up. 

place in the refrigerator to thicken up_small

Place in the refrigerator to thicken up but not congeal completely.

combine your cream cheese and sugar in a mixer then add your cool whip_small ready to add the cool whip to the mixture_small

Then in a mixer you want to cream together your cream cheese and your sugar.  Beat until creamy. 

Then fold in your Cool Whip. 

Spread onto the pretzel crust. 

spread the mixture on top of the pretzel crust_small totally delicious_small

Then add the strawberry jello over the top and refrigerate until ready to eat. 

ready for the refrigerator_small men love this dessert_small



 Brodie and Veronica Christmas Day 2015_small

Brodie and Veronica

It’s just not Christmas without the Chillen’s


Gifts From the Hostess

Gifts by the front door_small

I always like to keep little gifts by the front door around the holidays.  Usually edible.  Whether they be some sort of chocolates, or some specialty candies, or seasonal bags of coffee, things like that.  But here I have jars of our homemade Russian Tea.

Russian tea hostess gifts by door_small Santas and tea_small

These are nice for handing out to unexpected guests that drop by around the holidays.  Also to give to your postal workers that bring your packages to the door.  I like tying pretty ribbons and ornaments to the jars.  Sometimes I include some pretty Christmas napkins as well.

Our Russian Tea

Russian Tea is something I first learned about from dating Gordon back in the 80’s and meeting his family.  It was something of a staple for the holidays in their household.  They would make up a large batch of it and pass it out as Christmas gifts. 

little tea cup for the tea_small R T gifts 2_small

It’s such a beautiful color that it would also make an excellent gift at Thanksgiving.

Gordon Russian Tea_small Gordon making Russian Tea_small

Gordon Making the Russian Tea

I once asked him why it’s called Russian tea but he didn’t know.  His family just always called it that.

Russian Tea ingredients_small RTIngredients_small

The Russian Tea Ingredients

As you can see we are making quite a bit to give as gifts for the holidays. 

pour into a large bowl_small Nestea_small

Gordon pouring the ingredients into a large bowl.

Note:  Gordon had originally bought a lemon flavored tea which we both thought would add a nice lemon twist to this tea.  However when we opened the canister the tea was a very pale color.  Now normally there is nothing wrong with that but part of the appeal of this tea is in the colorful swirl of all the ingredients working in harmony with each other.  So Gordon had to quickly run out and buy some regular Nestea.

R T combine ingredients_small Beautiful color tea_small

This is a Beautiful Looking Tea

taste test 3_small taste test 6_small

Taste Test

It’s my job to do the canning but before I do that it’s time for a taste test.

Just add a teaspoon or two to a hot mug of water.  The cinnamon will float on top but that is o.k.

It’s Perfect!

Canning craft materials_small Jars and Lids_small

Now for the Assembly

All you really need are clean jars and lids, a funnel and a ladle.  The rest is extra adornments that you can leave up to your own discretion.

Julie pouring 4_small Julie R Tea 2_small

I do however love to dress them up with some lovely fabric, (this fabric Gordon bought in the Middle East years ago and brought back to me.  Also some lovely vintage Santa Christmas ornaments, some cord ribbon and even some gold bead chain. 

R T decorating the jars_small

Russian Tea Mix Recipe

(This is the original recipe.  We have altered it to allow for ingredients that we simply cannot find or to allow for our ever evolving tastes.  You can do the same if you like, it’s up to you.  You can also double or triple the recipe, like we have here.)

-1 Jar Tang (about 20 ounces)

-1/3 Jar Tea (we used a 3 ounce jar of Nestea so you will only need about an ounce.)

-2 small Pkg. Pineapple/Orange Jello

(We can’t always find the pineapple/orange jello so we use one pineapple and one orange jello.)

  • – 2 T. ground cloves
  • – 4 T. ground cinnamon
  • – 2 T. ground nutmeg

R T gifts_small

Lovely Gift Idea



Julie’s Gingerbread Cake

Very easy to do.  Just make a gingerbread cake using any recipe that you like.  Then when it is cooled cut it up into small pieces and place them kind of stacked up onto a cake plate.  Then top with some little vintage plastic cupcake toppers of your choice and top off with some powdered sugar to look like snow.  Very pretty and a nice little dessert after that big Christmas dinner.


My Christmas Fantasy Cake

This was so much fun to make and assemble.  I think that I was in something of a “Princess” mood when I came up with the idea.  We had just spent Thanksgiving at Disney World in Orlando, hence, the whole “Princess” theme. 

I ordered a bundt cake pan in the form of a Norwegian castle, while I also found some really nice horses pulling a carriage and what could be construed as ‘bride and groom’ figurines.  There was no need to make up something from scratch for this, I just bought 2 Pound Cake mixes from the commissary for this.  Two cake mixes are actually too  much for the bundt pan but one cake mix was not enough. 

I just needed something similar to a cake stand, but longer.  Luckily Gordon found this lovely glass platter and bowl at a thrift store for less than $5.00.  I wanted the cake elevated so I turned the bowl upside down and placed the platter on top. 

Once the cake was made, it is just a simple pound cake that I made from a mix.  I went about assembling the things that I would need.  I’m using a sugar free vanilla, already prepared frosting to spread all over the plate to look like snow.  Then a sprinkled coconut all over the snow just to enhance the look. 

I then added my silver trees along with the coach and horses and the ‘bride and groom’

OR in my case, the Prince and Princess.

Sprinkle with powered sugar and you get a lovely effect of freshly fallen snow.  Serve on some pretty glass plates and if you have some nice wine glasses with snow flakes it will only enhance the mood. 

Perfect Christmas Fantasy Cake, just for ME!


Same cake but this time I added some deer along with the trees.



Spiral Ham

Cooking the Ham

Cook the ham 15 min. per pound at 325’F.  The glaze I used was a mixture of 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 Tbsp apple cider, 1 Tbsp maraschino cherry juice, 1 Tbsp pineapple juice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cardamon, 1/4 Tsp allspice, and 1/4 tsp ground ginger.  Mix all the ingredients well and brush on the ham prior to cooking.  I also like to place some within the ham slices.

Above is a good depiction of the bottom of the ham where you can see clear lines to cut the ham at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions.  Cutting along these lines saves time and makes the slices easy to separate.


         Roasting Chestnuts and Homemade Cranberry Sauce

On the rounded side of the chestnut cut an X using a serrated knife.  The cuts let steam out of the nut and allow you a place to start to peal the nut away from the shell.

Let the chestnuts soak in a pot of hot water for about 15 min.


Then pat them dry and bake them in a 350’F  oven for 25-30 min.  Peel them while still warm as the shells will be loose and pliable.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

In a large pot place 2 bags of fresh cranberries along with 2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar.  You don’t have to use this much sugar if you don’t like it that sweet or if you use other sweeteners like honey, syrup, pineapple juice etc.

I then turn the mixture on to boil.

When boiling I then added 2 Tbsp honey, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamon, and fresh orange rind from 1 orange.

Cook this mixture at a boil until all the berries have popped.  Using a splatter screen helps to lesson your cleanup.  Once the berries have all popped, lower the temperature and cook until it is the consistency you desire.

TIP: If it cooks down too much, simply add more liquid like orange or pineapple juice.  Water is also good.


Our Christmas Cranberry Sauce


Our Christmas Eve Table


The Menu

Asian Ribs

Asian Cocktail Sausages

Stuffed Potato Skins

Various Cheeses, Crackers, Turkey Sausages and Mustard

Roasted Garlic with Toasted Ciabata Bread

Broccoli and Cheese Dip with Corn Chips

     Drunken Devils on Horseback


Bacon Wrapped Figs and Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

 Photos of  Before and After

These are delicious!  Every year we have our Drunken Devils on Horseback which is now a must for our Christmas.  Prunes soaked in Brandy overnight, then wrapped in bacon and placed in a 350* oven for 20 minutes or so.  Perfect!  Well, we decided to expand upon that and here we used fresh dates and figs, soaked in Brandy overnight, and then wrapped in bacon and placed into a 350* oven, same cooking time as above.  We did use some feta and goat cheeses inside the dates for an added surprise.  These are really good.

                               Baked Goat Cheeses

This is now my new favorite party appetizer for Christmas.  As you can see it looks very Christmassy.

  Here we took two types of Goat Cheese (herb and a honey) and cut it up into big chunks.  Next sprinkle some red peppercorns all around, strew with fresh thyme and then drizzle some olive oil over the dish.  Here we used basil oil.  Then just bake in the oven for about 20 minutes on 350’F.  The peppercorns get very soft.  Just spread over crackers or a sliced bread or toast. 

Really good!