Christmas Baking & Beach-side Cooking

At our home we don't have many traditions, but one tradition which we love to follow year over year every year is our mother & daughter Christmas baking day. Every year we set aside a whole afternoon to bake and decorate many batches of cookies and share with teachers, household help and family friends. It's a wonderful time doing what we love and cherishing the time together making holiday memories.

This year I had big plans to attempt some new cookies - mainly my eyes were on a particular chocolate chip mint thins with candy cane crunch from and a recipe I found online for gingerbread swirl fudge which simply looked delicious. We couldn't quite make the time to bake chocolate dipped mint thins; but we did put together gingerbread swirl fudge which was very easy to put together and looked great but we found it too sweet and didn't enjoy as much.

So we stuck with our usuals - which in our house is this trusted recipe of sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies and a big batch of almond biscotti flavored with peppermint extract (not in the recipe). 
They were all fantastic - and best of all, as my daughter gets older she was fully in-charge of decorating the cookies this time, leaving me to focus on churning out the new batches while she did a great job decorating them with some abstract patterns. 
All in all, a great time we had baking and decorating and everyone enjoyed the cookies we shared! 

Can't wait for next year's holiday baking again :)  
We also took a beach vacation this holiday which is always fun! As we do every beach vacation, we get an oceanfront studio with fully equipped kitchenette. It's usually pricey being oceanfront and all, but has the best advantage of stepping out of your patio to get to the beach and watching many sunsets and sunrises right from your balcony! And offsets the extra price tag if you cook & eat all breakfasts and dinners at home. 
One of my personal highlights of the vacation is always the candle-light dinners we cook and eat on our patio overlooking the beautiful Pacific. We buy simple groceries once we land in the city and pack a few staples with us in our airline check-in bag. I find it so challenging but also rewarding to cook without the usual crutches of spices and herbs! 

I have learnt to season most of our dishes just with olive oil, garlic, lemon and a good quality sea salt and pepper. It's amazing the flavor miracles this simple seasoning combos can pull! 

We pack and carry a couple of ziplocks with meal sized dry uncooked rice, lentils for soup, turmeric seasoned uncooked lentils for daal, pasta and then cook in the kitchenette. This vacation we made many happy means blending our staples with the fresh produce from a visit to local farmer's market. 

Here was our 5 day dinner menu: 1) Rice and green lentil bowl topped with avocados 2) lentil soup w/ sourdough bread 3) simply seasoned angel hair pasta with garlic and tomatoes 4) potato curry w/ corn tortilla and 5) stir fried local veggies w/ rice.

Few lessons learnt: 1) food can be equally delicious without any spices or herbs, yes even Indian recipes 2) just make sure the basic seasonings (olive oil, salt, pepper) and the produce used is the best quality and freshest that you have access to! and 3) pair with some in-season fresh local vegetables or fruits from local markets - and you have a meal to remember!

Hope you all had a happy and relaxing holiday break.