Some people despise winter. For me, when that first snow hits, I get all giddy inside and the 10-year-old child in me wants to run around making snow angels and tobogganing. You don’t realize HOW much you miss it until everyone back home is sending pictures of skiing in the mountains or the first days of snow covered yards. There’s something magical about the first snow every year, and what a perfect reminder that the holiday season is upon us. This year will be a whole different Christmas experience for me. I’m really going to miss being surrounded by family, but I’m also excited for my adventures around Europe and to spend Christmas with friends in Prague.
With Christmas comes so many Christmas traditions. It’s fun to learn from my roommates and teammates about the different traditions over here. In Belgium, they celebrate Saint-Nicolas on December 6th with chocolates and small presents in addition to Christmas on the 24th! I’ll have to miss a few of my favourite traditions this year including the annual Christmas Tea Party at the Leavitts, building a hockey rink on the lake at the cottage, and a new favourite; the Christmas Sing Song, a tradition of my brother-in-law’s family. But, there are a few traditions which I refuse to break every year, no matter who I’m with or where I am in the world, number one being stringing the lights and setting up the Christmas tree.
It’s something we always did as a family growing up and one of my fondest memories around Christmas time. Christmas music playing in the background, eggnog poured and an assortment of Christmas treats set out. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a fresh Christmas tree, with decorations and lights scattered all over the living room. The best part is unwrapping the boxes of homemade and ancient family ornaments each year and reminiscing of Christmas’ past. I always laugh when I see my Dad’s favourite ornament come out, a little Santa clip, who sits right next to the star every year watching over us. I had to start from scratch this year, so I went to the big supermarket to buy a small Christmas tree, lights, ornaments and the necessary eggnog and cookie ingredients.
Eggnog. It’s one of those holidays drinks you know is weird but you can’t stop drinking because it’s so damn delicious. I had a friend tell me years ago that they made homemade eggnog every year, which, to be honest, I thought was completely bizarre. Eggnog was always one of those mystery items, bought in cartons at the grocery store, in which I was perfectly happy not knowing the contents. But, if it wasn’t homemade eggnog this year than it wasn’t eggnog at all. Attempt 1 was a fail. Personally, I like my eggnog to be around the same thickness as milk, not too creamy. What I ended up with tasted delicious, but only got thicker as it cooled, and was more like drinking 35% cream – yikes! On the bright side it was a delicious addition to my morning espresso.
The good news is, the second time around it was a huge success! After trying a recipe that used half coconut milk, half milk, I decided to use all Almond Milk to cut the thickness. I also cut the sugar in half of what most eggnog recipes called for because I found it very sweet, but you can adjust the sugar to suit your taste! A few important tips; eggnog continues to thicken as it cools, you have to temper the egg yolks otherwise they will curdle, do NOT bring to a boil once you’ve added the egg yolks. My final recipe is an adapted version of this AllRecipes “Amazingly Good Eggnog”.
Almond Milk Eggnog
2 cups Unsweetened Almond Milk
3 Egg Yolks
1/8 tsp + 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 tbsp Sugar (cane/ coconut etc)
Sprinkle of Ground Nutmeg to Garnish
Combine 1 cup of almond milk, 1/8 tsp vanilla and ground cinnamon in a saucepan over low heat. Slowly bring milk to a boil. Meanwhile combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium sized bowl and whisk until fluffy. Once boiled, slowly whisk hot milk, 1/4 cup at a time, into the egg yolks until mixed. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened. Do NOT let the mixture boil. Take off heat and let cool. Once cool, add the remaining 1 cup of Almond Milk and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. Refrigerate overnight.
Serve over ice with a splash of rum and sprinkle with Nutmeg!
The cookies. Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies. These are my all-time favourite Christmas cookie, introduced to me many years ago by my oldest and best friend. Since we were crazy kids, trying to fly down the stairs with cardboard wings, her Mom has treated us to these delectable cookies every Christmas. I’ll have to wait until next year to have them fresh out of her oven, but for now, this recipe from GimmeSomeOven definitely hit the spot! No modifications needed. Chewy little bites of Christmas!
So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already, throw on a little Mariah Carey or Dolly Parton, get the cookies in the oven, eggnog in hand and bring the house to life with all those decorations anxious to be pulled out of boxes!
PS … only 30 days until Christmas :).