December 1, 2011

Holiday Guest Blogger: Charise from "More Bread and Cheese, Please!"

Hello, Prep-in-the-Midwesters! I'm Charise, and I blog over at More Bread and Cheese, Please! I mainly write about recipes from my kitchen, but there's some entertaining/party and travel write-ups thrown in for fun. I know Megan through our Purdue tailgating crew.
Anyway, I love, love, LOVE the holidays and am big on creating traditions. Since moving to Columbus, Ohio, right after college (Boiler Up!) 6.5 years ago with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Ryan, there's a few things we do every year.

1) Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo Columbus has a zoo ranked tops in the nation, which is not surprising considering famous animal caretaker Jack Hanna was its long-time director. Although I usually have a short attention span for looking at captive animals, I do love seeing the place entirely blanketed in millions of lights every winter. Snow, carolers, reindeer, polar bears, holding mittened-covered hands, and sipping hot chocolate (hidden flask of peppermint schnaaps and Bailey's optional ;)) - what's not to love? If you are ever in Central Ohio between Thanksgiving and New Year's, I'd recommend checking it out.

2) Annual Christmas Party
Beginning the year after moving to Columbus, Ryan and I have thrown a big holiday shindig. We alternate the themes, one year doing the classic ugly holiday sweater party, and the next hosting a pajama jam. (I can't be the only one who always got new pajamas every Christmas Eve, right? It's my homage to that, and an excuse to still buy a new pair of fun-patterned fuzzy pj pants every December.) We may mix it up for the sixth year and do a dressier cocktail party, but we'll have to see about that!
We consider the party our Christmas gift to all our local friends, and go all out - keg, spiked hot chocolate, champagne punch, and I spend multiple days cooking and baking up a holiday feast. The spread always includes a couple seasonal desserts. Last year's peppermint oreo truffles were quite the hit, and are easy, if a little time-consuming, to prepare. Recipe included at the end of this post if you'd like to try them out. 
3) Homemade Chinese Food and Movies on Christmas Eve
With divorced parents who live in different states, we do a lot of traveling for all holidays throughout the year. We've made an effort to make Christmas Eve *our* time, where we don't go anywhere and don't have any guests. This does not always make my family happy, but we're our own little family now, too, and have to do what's best for us.
Since we cook a fancy dinner on Christmas day, for Christmas Eve I stir-fry a couple better-than-restaurant quality versions of Chinese food - general tso's and mongolian beef are our favorites. Then we hunker down on the couch with some adult beverages, our spiffy new pj's, and watch It's A Wonderful Life followed by Love Actually with the Christmas tree twinkling next to us. If we're still up for it, we'll throw in A Muppet Christmas Carol, but that often waits until Christmas morning.

Peppermint Oreo Truffles
(makes 8 dozen; via A Southern Fairytale)

2 packages of Trader Joe's Candy Cane Jo-Jo's or Peppermint Oreos
2 packages of cream cheese (I always use 1/3 less fat)
5-6 4 oz bars of bittersweet chocolate (like Bakers or Ghirardelli)
1 package of 12 candy canes

1. Place one package of oreos in a heavy-duty ziploc bag and crush with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Empty in to a large mixing bowl and repeat with second package. There should be some larger chunks, some crumbs, and some powdery pieces. (You can use a food processor, but what fun is that?)

2. Add the cream cheese and mix to combine. We just jump right in and use our hands so we don't break up the cookies any further with a mixer.

3. Form into about 1 in. balls, rolling bits of dough in your palms. Place on wax paper on cookie sheets. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

4. Melt your chocolate in a double boiler (I use a medium metal mixing bowl over a medium saucepan with about 1-2 inches of simmering water in it).

5. Using two forks, roll each ball around the mixture, let some excess drain off, and place back on wax paper. Every 5-6 balls, stop to sprinkle your candy canes or other toppings before the chocolate hardens all the way.

6. Stick back in fridge to harden up. I'm store mine there but they should also be fine in a covered container at room temperature.

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