Tag Archives: Christmas

How Candy Canes are made

Candy Cane

Merry Christmas! Whether you celebrate or not, hope you are having a lovely day, and something good to eat. We know we will be stuffed with sweets today. In that holiday spirit, please enjoy this awesome video of candy canes being made at Lofty Pursuits in Florida.

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Bretzels at the Chicago Christkindlmarket

germanyOne of the great holiday traditions in Chicago is visiting the German-inspired Christkindlmarket in Daley plaza in Chicago. At the Christkindlmarket, you can get your fill of German and America treats, buy some of the famous German glass ornaments (including the famous pickle ornament), and pick up a commemorative mug of spiced wine, Glühwein. As for other food and drink, you can also get döner, sausages, roast nuts, stollen, potato pancakes, strudel and more. However, for us, the treat of choice is the Bavarian pretzel aka bretzel. When we were in Germany this was our favorite snack, and there are several varieties available at the Christkindlmarket from the Pretzel Haus stand (from Bad Oeynhausen) for less than $5 apiece. We go for the classic bretzel, though there are cheese-filled and sugary varieties as well. It is the prefect market day food- warm, filling, and portable! Christmas Eve is the last day the Christkindlmarket is open – so don’t delay in getting your holiday bretzel.


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Merry Christmas 2013!

Happy winter wishes from the miniature snow-covered Sphinx in Tobu World Square Theme Park in Japan.


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Holiday eats around the world: A Puerto Rican Christmas Feast

Flag of Puerto RicoIt’s Christmas Eve, and most people have their menus well-planned. But if you need some last minute inspiration, look no further than the typical Puerto Rican Christmas feast. Our favorite part? Lechon asado as the main centerpiece: a whole roast pig, which we try to get as often as we can! Other typical Christmas Eve or nochebuena dishes are pasteles (filled masa steamed in banana leaves), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and coquito (coconut egg nog). Though Italian food is near and dear to our heart, this kind of feast is a definitely a close second!

Christmas in Viejo San Juan

Christmas in Viejo San Juan by Gaby Maldonado

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Venezuelan Hallacas For Christmas

VenezuelaChristmas food is all about comfort, and nothing is more comforting than tamales! Venezuela has their own special Christmas dish that is a close cousin of the Mexican tamal, the hallaca. A mix of European, African and Indigenous foodways, hallacas consist of masa steamed in a plantain leaf, filled with a mixture of beef, pork, chicken and olives. If you are really planning to have a big nochebuena dinner, here is a recipe to make 50 hallacas, or a slightly more modest 25. The tradition of making hallacas at Christmastime has also spread to Trinidad and Aruba, both of which are very close to the Venezuelan coast.

Venezuelan Hallacas

Venezuelan Hallacas by Alejandro Angel

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Danish Brunede Kartofler: Caramelized Christmas Potatoes

denmark_flagWe’ve never thought of potatoes as a sweet dish, but Kalle Bergman’s post about Brunede Kartofler (Danish Caramelized Potatoes) on Honest Cooking definitely intrigued us. As opposed to the salty mashed potatoes we enjoy in the US, the Danish go the sweet route with this traditional Christmas side, which is an excellent match with heavier meat dishes. Brunede Kartofler are deceptively simple, and consist of peeled new potatoes, pan-fried in butter and sugar. In order to cut through the heavier dishes, you will often see the meat and potatoes cut with the tangy cabbage slaw, Rødkål.

Danish Caramelized Potatoes

Danish Caramelized Potatoes by Jens Rost

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The Christmas Pickle Ornament

We were at Chicago’s venerable Christkindlmarket today, perusing the holiday ornaments while enjoying bretzels and roasted cashews, when we noticed a huge basket of glass ornaments shaped like pickles. “Odd,” we both said. But then we saw them at another booth, and again at another. What gives? We were intrigued. Finally, in one of the ornament shops, in the midst of yet-again vocalizing how confused we were by the pickle ornaments, a woman behind us jumped in: in her family, one person puts/hides the pickle ornament in the tree, and the person who finds the pickle ornament gets to open presents first, or gets an extra gift. And it was not just her family: apparently the Christmas pickle is a huge tradition! Though some people claim the pickle has German origins, it is probably actually an American or German-American tradition that took root in the late 19th century, just as glass ornaments were being popularized. Even though its origins are shrouded in mystery we like the idea that it is supposed to bring good luck!

Christmas Pickle Ornament

Christmas Pickle Ornament (and Danbo friend) by Meagan


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Holiday Eats Around the World: Stollen from Germany

germanyThough everyone is probably already overtired of holiday sweets, here is one more confection for the road (though is it really possible to be completely tired of sweets?) One of the most popular European Christmas treats is the German Stollen, a type of yeast-based fruit cake chock full of nuts, candied fruits and spices, and topped with powdered sugar. The history of Stollen is very complicated, and dates back to the 14th century, when it originated during a baking contest created by the Bishop of Nauruburg. Stollen enjoyed such an exalted place in German cuisine that a church ban on butter was lifted in the 16th century just to make the holiday cake (with some of the proceeds being used to build churches). Though Stollen is found throughout Germany and Europe, the most lauded variety is found in Dresden,  a recipe that can be found here. Dresden even has an annual festival in honor of the cake. Due to our affinity of all things miniature, also check out this recipe for Mini Stollen.


Stollen by Joana Petrova

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Merry Christmas Bacalhau!

If there is one constant in Portuguese food it is the mighty, iconic Bacalhau. This Portuguese salted cod is found nearly on every traditionl Portuguese menu – often in dozens of preparations. It is in fact rumored that over 500 canonized Balcahu recipes exist in Portuguese cuisine. Some of the most popular Bacalhau dishes are Bacalhau com Natas and Bacalhoada, but there is a Bacalhau recipe to suit nearly every taste.

Christmastime is an especially important time for the Bacalhau – as it is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve by Portuguese families. Bacalhau can be found in many forms – filleted and dried, in cans, and even frozen is gaining popularity. We were also amused to find specal  “Christmas Bacalhau” for sale. Basically these are the normal splayed, dried and salted bacalhau, but wrapped in cellophane and topped with a red bow. We thought this was a one-off, but we actually saw this festive gift-ready presentation in several Lisbon stores leading up to Christmas.

This calls to mind the Italian tradition of the feast of the seven fishes, which we have written about previously. In Italian, Bacalhau is called Baccala, and sorry to say we do not much care for that either, perhaps betraying our Italian heritage a bit. But, bacalhau is the real heart of Portuguese cuisine, and if you don’t at least try it – you are missing out! You never know when you will need that 7th fish dish for the Feast of Seven Fishes.

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Christmas in Portugal: Bolo Rei

Bolo Rei on display in Lisbon

In Portugal, one of the signals that the Christmas season has arrived is the arrival of the Bolo Rei (King Cake), a yeast-baked cake flavored with nuts and fruit and topped with a heaping helping of crystallized fruit. Eaten in Portugal until Kings Day (Jan 6), the Bolo Rei is nearly identical to the King Cake that is popular for Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Like a King Cake, the Bolo Rei has a small trinket inside (traditionally a fava bean, but in more modern times, a charm), a practice which has now actually been outlawed (boo!).

The Confeiteria Nacional in Lisbon credits itself with introducing the Bolo Rei to Portugal in the 1800s. Throughout Portugal there are Bolo Rei being sold by every corner bakery, in all sizes. However, if you are not currently in Lusitania, there are many recipes available for Bolo Rei. Another Variation on the Bolo Rei is the Bolo Rainha – without crystallized fruit.

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Finer Things Club: The Last of the Julmust

norwaysweden_flagJulmust is a Scandinavian soda that is sold only around the holiday time. So – like many other Christmas items, now that the holidays are over – Julmust goes on sale.  We visited World Market on New Years Eve, where we found that  Guttsta Kalla Julmust was on sale for the bargain-basement price of $0.49!  Having never tried Julmust, we decided it was a must-buy. Two of the main ingredients in Julmust are barley and hops, similar to beer. However, Julmust is not fermented, so it is non-alcoholic. Upon tasting, we ascertained that Julmust is pretty much beer with juice. On top of the hoppy flavor, Julmust did have some holiday spiciness, but it was not necessarily our cup of tea. Though we concede that Julmust is a fine holiday tradition, it’s definitely an aquired taste.julmusttree

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Finer Things Club: Torrone for the holidays

Italy spain
As the holiday season draws to a close, we are finishing up the last of the Christmas goodies – including one of our favorites torrone. It’s a pretty simple confection made of egg whites, honey, almonds and sugar. Popular across Southern Europe, this almond nougat is known as Turrón (Spanish), torró (Catalan), or torrone (Italian).The origin of Turron is Arabic, and was created by moors in the town of Jijona, in Valencia, Spain. Spanish turron comes in 2 basic varieties – soft Jijona or turrón blando, and hard Alicante or turrón duro, similar to peanut brittle.


Torrone is most commonly consumed around the holidays – La Florentine is one of the most popular varieties in the US, and has individually-warpped portions of soft torrone in Vanilla, Lemon and Orange flavors. You can even get La Florentine torrone online, though it is pretty commonly available in larger grocery stores. Delicious Days even has a recipe to try on your own, even though it seems pretty tricky.

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Merry Christmas, Everybody

This is a picture I personally took a few weeks ago. Santa and Mrs. Claus apparently like Rosati’s Pizza after a long day on the job.  Happy Holidays everyone – happy eating!

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Germany and Austria: Adventskalender und Weihnachtsmärkte (Holiday markets)

Austria It’s December 1st! And that means a new year of Advent calendars. Advent calendars (Adventskalender) date back to Lutherans in 19th Century Germany, where they were (and are) used to count down the days until Christmas. In our case, December 1st means chocolate advent calendars. There are some enticing looking varieties out there. But I’m going to opt for something a bit more low-key. Cost Plus World Market sells some good varieties from Deutschland for less than 5 bucks.


December 1st is also the traditional start date for Weihnachtsmärkte, Austrian and German outdoor holiday markets. According to Wikipedia, Vienna’s market is the oldest and dates back to 1294. This past weekend we had the fortune to go to Chicago’s very own Weihnachtsmärkte, the Christkindlmarket. The long-running market takes place at Daley Plaza in the heart of Chicago’s Loop and contains a giant Christmas Tree and tons of booths chock full of German handicrafts and food (like the Bavarian steins above). The Market runs through the 24th so there is still plenty of time to get festive.

Christmas tree

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