As I gear up to spend this Christmas away from my family back in Seattle, I've been feeling a little homesick and nostalgic which always results in me cooking...a lot. Cooking reminds me of my family, my mom, sister-in-laws and I love spending time in the kitchen, surrounded by the ones we love, cooking up a feast that we will all share as we drink and laugh and snuggle into to the warmth that is family. I'm one of those lucky ones that loves spending time with my family, not only just during the holidays but any opportunity I get. But during the holidays, well, let me just tell you that my family are a little nutty for Christmas.
Being so far away from them leaves me thinking about those little family Christmas traditions that I long for and adore. Like how my mom always places this driftwood Christmas decoration I made in preschool in her kitchen window. It's been there, every single Christmas for thirty-three years. Or how my brothers and I would eagerly wake every morning to open the next window of our Chocolate Christmas advent calendar and snack on my mom's homemade Christmas toffee. Every year we knew it was the start of the Christmas season when my mom made the first batch of Christmas toffee. It's the only time of year we will allow her to make it. My brother's and I are very strict about this. Don't be tryin' to make us any Christmas toffee in October, Ma! And, she knows better. Oh does she know better. And now her toffee is known all around town. Everyone waits all year for Teri's Terrific Toffee.
And my favorite memories, how I would turn off all the lights in the living room and dance around the Christmas tree listening to the Carpenter's Christmas album as the lights twinkled in the background. It's memories like these that make Christmas so special. These memories fill me with so much joy and happiness. If I am lucky enough to have kids one day, I hope I can pass some of these down to them and make many more that they will remember well into their adult years.
As I cook and reminisce on Christmas pasts, I'm filled with so much gratitude for having a family that cherishes tradition. I think tradition is the foundation of family. As much as I wish I could be with my family this Christmas, I won't be. However, you better believe I'll be dancing around my tiny tree listening to the soft haunting voice of Karen Carpenter. Some habits die hard.
Rosemary Bacon, Apple and Hazelnut Mince Mini Pies with Caramel-Date Sauce.
When I was younger, maybe around the seventh grade or so, we were required to research a part of our lineage and write a report on our findings. With my dad being born in England, and knowing very little about that side of my family, I decided to look deeper and do my report on our English roots.
Part of this report was to create a traditional and culturally relevant dish and share it with the class in a potluck. I knew enough to know that British cuisine isn't exactly looked upon as something to be desired when trying to decided what to make for dinner so when the time came to decide on what to make I called my grandmother and asked her a bit about some traditional foods and we decided on Mincemeat Pie. The name alone lacks something to be desired but when it was all said and done and my grandmother and I had completed the little decadent treats, they weren't half bad.
These little treats are a mix of savory and sweet, gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. A little word of warning though, if you love super traditional pie crust and haven't ventured into the world of gluten-free eating, keep an open mind.
1/2 lbs. black forest bacon (I get mine at Whole Foods)
1 apple, chopped
1 pear, chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup goji berries
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp chia seeds (mix with 2 tbsp cold water)
6-8 tbsp cold water
Date Caramel Sauce
8 dates (soaked in water or at least 10-15 minutes)
2 tbsp coconut butter
2 tbsp cold water
how to make
Make the pie crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Mix the chia seeds in a small bowl with 2 tbsp of water and set aside.
- In a food processor, add oats and salt. Blend until the oats have broken down into flour.
- Add in the chia mixture, buckwheat flour and olive oil and pulse in until combined.
- Drizzle in the remaining water a tablespoon at a time while pulsing the mixture until a dough forms (you might not need all of the water). Roll the pastry out on a piece of baking paper until it's only a few mm thick. Using a small glass, cut out circles and form to the bottle of greased (butter or vegetable shortening) muffin tin. Bake for 12 minutes until dry. Leave to cool.
For the rosemary bacon, apple and hazelnut filling:
- In a sauté pan or cast iron skillet, cook bacon. As bacon cooks, chop up rosemary and add to pan towards the end. The rosemary is to give a hint of flavor.
- Remove bacon and set aside. Add chopped apple, pear and fig to bacon pan and cook until tender. Add in goji berries, honey and spices and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
- Chop bacon and add to pan along with the chopped hazelnuts. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
For the caramel-date sauce:
- Pit the soaked dates and place into a blender with the coconut butter, boiling water, salt and vanilla extract. Blend until completely smooth.
- Add 1-2 tbsp of apple mixture to each pie cup and top with a dollop of the caramel date sauce. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon to finish.