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Addictive Appetizers: A Non-Conformist Guide to a Splendid Dinner Party

Published December 27, 2014 by The Feminist

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Appetizers: they are the beating heart of the holiday season. At least in my family they are. Not only do they announce the start of what will turn out to be a memorable Christmas dinner, but more importantly they force family members to gather round the table and gobble down some marvelous food as an act of familial harmony. Believe me, nothing brings a family together like spilling a glass of champagne over your grandma’s skirt or dropping a hot puff pastry canapé down your own cleavage after a (failed) attempt of trying to eat with your fingers as elegantly as possible.

The only problem with appetizers is that you often eat so many of them, you’re already full before the dinner has barely even started. At least, that used to be a problem. Where I come from – and I’m sure many of you will recognize this scenario- traditional appetizers and canapés usually mean lots of cheese, plenty of mini pigs-in-a-blanket and an over-abundance of little toasts and crostini topped with a buttery or mayo-rich spread.

Although these traditional mouthfuls are indeed quite delicious, the high quantity of fat, salt and carbs in them will make you bloat up before you’ve even reached the dinner table. And that is a shame. Surely, you want there to be some room left in your stomach for the big event, a.k.a the main? Or horror, what if you won’t be able to indulge in that fabulous dessert?

Therefore, I decided to do things differently this year and introduced my family to some incredibly delicious but lighter appetizers. Mind you, this is not about trying to create “healthier” appetizers. After all, if there is one day of the year on which you are allowed to indulge in the naughtier of foods, it is most definitely Christmas. No, these appetizers are there to give you the same mouthwatering satisfaction as the traditional ones would, but also make sure you will still have some room left for that devilishly naughty dessert.

So if you’re planning on doing some fancy appetizers for New Year’s Eve, why don’t you add one of these to your wish list? I can guarantee your party will be remembered for years to come! (And this time it won’t be because you managed to douse grandma with a bottle of booze.) Cheers!

Mexican Mango and Kidney Bean Salsa

This refreshing mouthful can be served on individual spoons or on some pretty lettuce leaves. You can add as much chili as you like, and if I were to make this appetizer for me and my friends I would add a bit more fire than this recipe suggests, but since I had to take into account my grandparents and their incapability of eating anything spicy without getting gassy, I was very cautious with the vavavoom heat. But if you like it hot, be my guest to chop in some more!

mango

Ingredients:

  • 1 mango, finely diced
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained
  • ½ red chili
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tomato, deseeded and finely diced
  • ¼ cucumber, finely diced
  • Fresh coriander

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in bowl.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and add just enough lime juice so that the balance of sweet, savory and acidity is just perfect.
  3. Finally, stir in lots of finely chopped coriander.

Cauliflower “Tabbouleh” with Freekeh and Hemp Seeds

Now, before you start thinking I was secretly trying to drug my grandparents: hemp seeds won’t get you high. On the contrary, not only are the seeds an innocent variety of their naughty cousin Cannabis, they are also considered a superfood and are a great source of protein and antioxidants for vegetarians and vegans. Plus, their nutty and savoury flavour make them really yummy too! And a great combo with that lovely toasted aroma of the freekeh. “Freekeh?” I hear you ask. This ancient, Middle Eastern grain with an admittedly funny name is the next big thing in foodie land. Forget quinoa, that’s so 2014. In 2015, everyone will be eating this marvelous fiber-rich super grain. Mark my words!

This cauliflower tabbouleh is anything you could wish for and more. Crunchy, savoury, nutty, fragrant, zingy and a little bit sweet. Heaven!

caulif

Ingredients:

  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 100gr freekeh
  • 5 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 3 tbsp freshly chopped dill
  • 3 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
  • ½ tps ground cumin
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff)
  • Handful of finely chopped dried cranberries

Method:

  1. Chop the cauliflower really fine, until you get a coucous-like texture.
  2. Cook the freekeh for about 15 minutes in salted water and drain.
  3. Add the cauliflower and freekeh together in a bowl. Add the juice of half a lime and season with plenty of salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in the chopped cranberries, herbs and hemps seeds.
  5. Finely stir in the olive oil to bind the whole lot together.
  6. Put the tabbouleh in small glasses and serve with a teeny tiny spoon on the side.

Cucumber “toasts” with a feta, dill and Pomegranate filling

All credits for this recipe go to the wonderful and brilliant Lorraine Pascale, who made this appetizer in one of her latest cooking shows. This one is an absolute winner. The cucumber is a great and refreshing alternative for the traditional and boring mini-toast and the filling truly is a flavour sensation in your mouth. Salty feta? Check! Fragrant dill? Check! Little bombs of pure juicy delight, also known as pomegranate seeds? Check!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 200gr feta cheese
  • Seeds of ¼ to ½ pomegranate
  • Lots of fresh dill

Method:

  1. You can use the cucumber in 2 different ways. The first is to simply cut the cucumber in slices and top it with the feta mixture. This is the easier method, although it might be a bit tricky to put the feta on top of it without making a mess. The second way is to peel the cucumber and cut them in somewhat thicker slices, approx. 1 cm thick. Scoop out the inside to create a whole for the feta mix to sit in. It is a bit more work to do it this way, but it neatly contains the feta, so you don’t have to be afraid of the filling falling on your lap while trying to stuff it down your gob. I tried both methods and although the scooping is a bit more work, it does look slightly daintier 😉
  2. Mix the feta together with the dill and pomegranate seeds and add some olive oil (1 tbsp) to make sure everything stick together. Don’t forget to add a good touch of black pepper.

Kick Off the Holidays with a Pair (or Two, Nay, Three!) of New Shoes

Published December 22, 2014 by The Feminist

All the fabulous shoes on this even more fabulous list were most definitely not made for walking (except maybe for one lonely pair of flats, but even those are way too fancy and hence I wouldn’t dare to walk in out of fear of getting them dirty)

However, who cares if these shoes were not made for long hikes or an afternoon of frantic Christmas shopping (i.e. my forte)? After all, isn’t the only walking activity you will be doing on Christmas simply wobbling from the kitchen to the dinner table? Surely you will be able to manage that in these high-heeled beauties? So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and buy them!

If my words for some odd reason haven’t convinced you to buy a pair of awesome shoes, maybe these pictures will be able to persuade you. (Btw, for once I tried to remain realistic and listed only those shoes that are actually affordable. So no designer shoes this time, but splendid beauties from Asos and Topshop that will only set you back for a maximum of 100 euros! What a bargain!)

These are from Asos:

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asos shoesasos shoes 2

river iland shoe

These are from Topshop:

topshop feather shoestopshop

And for those women who get soar feet merely from looking at these pictures, there is always this option:

topshop brogues

Baking With Booze: Italian Amaretto Coffee Cake

Published December 20, 2014 by The Feminist

Dear readers, it has been a ridiculously long time since my last Baking with Booze video. Not because I was lacking inspiration – I’m never short of inspiration!- but because I was lacking time. These past couple of weeks have been absurdly busy and I regret to say that the first thing that suffered from my busy life was my blog and my Baking with Booze spin off show.

However, this doesn’t mean I have forgotten all about you, dear readers. You still have a special place in my heart and that is why I decided to clear my busy schedule and make some time to put together another Baking with Booze video.

This cake is – to use Tom Kerridge’s favourite phrase- “utterly lush”: a moist loaf packed with aromatic coffee and Amaretto flavours and topped with a tasty walnut crumble. It is by far the most perfect cake to kick off the Holidays, for it will get you into a Christmas spirit in no time.

PS: With this video, I also took the liberty to bombard you with my favourite song of the moment: Therapy by Mary J. Blige. I hope you all like it as well, because otherwise you are so screwed. 😉

Ingredients:

For the walnut crumble:

  • 50gr walnuts, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 20gr butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

For the Amaretto coffee cake:

  • 150gr butter
  • 200gr cane sugar
  • 200gr flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml hot water
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 50ml Amaretto

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Make the walnut crumble. Mix the butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and flour together in a blender until you get a thick paste. Stir in the chopped walnuts by hand until evenly dispersed and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Mix the hot water together with the espresso powder and let it cool slightly before adding to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well. Now stir in the Amaretto as well. Your mixture will look disgusting at this stage, but it will change, trust me.
  5. Stir in the eggs, one at a time and whisk well after each addition.
  6. Finally, stir in the flour and baking powder and pour the batter into the baking tin.
  7. Scatter dollops of the walnut crumble all across the top of the batter and bake in the oven for about 40-45 minutes.

Same Ingredients, Different Dish: Cooking with Aubergine, Feta, Dill and Pomegranate

Published December 14, 2014 by The Feminist

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Many of my single friends have often told me that the most annoying thing about being single is the fact that you have to cook one-person meals.

“This may sound strange, but sometimes I have these moments when I really want to eat cauliflower. I love cauliflower. And yet, I never buy it. Because no matter how much I love cauliflower, I sure as hell don’t want eat it all week.”

Friend X is right. As a single woman, you often shy away from buying ingredients that are too big to eat in one meal (or in  case of the cauliflower: ingredients that are the size of your own head.). Nobody wants to eat cheesy cauliflower 4 days in a row. That’s just sad.

The problem here is that most of my single friends (no offence, ladies) don’t realize the potential culinary goldmine that comes with cooking for “just you”. It is not because you have bought a cauliflower that you have to eat the same dish every day. You’ve got to experiment! Be creative! Because apart from the traditional cauliflower coated in a thick cheese sauce, you can make a cauliflower and chickpea curry, miso-glazed BBQ cauliflower or a cauliflower, herb and freekeh salad. Yes, you will be eating cauliflower 4 days in a row, but trust me: when you do it like this, you won’t even mind! (Plus: it is also really good for you budget!)

So, this week I went to the supermarket and bought a “family pack” of feta cheese (sometimes supermarkets are just cruel), a pomegranate, a huge pot of fresh dill and 3 aubergines (because I am one of those crazy people who gets seduced by phrases such as “buy 2, get the 3rd one for free!” )

Needless to say, I had to be creative. And man, my culinary mastermind did not disappoint, because these 2 dishes were amazeballs.

In fact, they were so incredibly delicious that I suddenly realized that with a couple of fancy tweeks, these 2 dishes can become real showstoppers at the Christmas table!

Moroccan-spiced aubergine soup with feta, dill and pomegranate

The warmth of the heavenly spiced soup works really well with the tanginess of the cheese, the sweet and juicy pomegranate and the fresh dill.

This soup would also be a great starter for a Christmas dinner. Just serve some homemade flat bread with it or serve it as part of an aubergine trio, which could include baba ganoush (with some sesame crackers) and tempura aubergine slices.

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Ingredients (2-3):

  • 2 aubergines
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tomato
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nigella seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp harissa paste
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Pinch of sumac
  • 300gr feta cheese
  • Lots of fresh dill
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • Vegetable stock

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°C. Score the aubergine with a knife in a few places and place on a baking tray and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn them around every 15 minutes or so.
  2. Remove the aubergines from the heat and allow to cool slightly before cutting them open and scooping out the soft flesh. Put aside.
  3. Meanwhile make your soup by heating a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and adding the shallot, garlic and spices. Add the chopped tomato and 500ml of vegetable stock. Stir in the harissa paste.
  4. Let it simmer for 20 minutes. Add the aubergine flesh and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Blitz the soup to a smooth liquid with a hand-held blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a sprinkling of sumac.
  5. Before serving, put some feta, dill and pomegranate into your hot plate of soup.

Roasted aubergine “chips” with fried eggs, feta, dill and pomegranate

This is like a modern, exotic and healthy version of “eggs and soldiers”. Do note that the aubergine chips aren’t supposed to be crisp like normal fries. On the contrary, they are supposed to be soft in the middle and all lovely and roasted on the outside.

If you would like to serve this as a starter for Christmas, replace the fried eggs with fancy poached ones and serve it in a mini tagine with some homemade flat bread.

egg

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 1 aubergine, cut into thick chips
  • 150gr feta cheese
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Fresh dill
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of sumac
  • Pinch of pink pepper corns
  • ½ tsp za’atar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and fry the aubergine fries for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and ginger.
  2. Transfer the aubergine to an oven-proof dish and put in the oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Take the dish out of the oven and crumble the feta cheese over the top and finish with a sprinkling of za’atar. Put in the oven for 3 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile fry the eggs. Put the fried eggs on top of your aubergine soldiers and feta cheese and season with sumac and pink pepper corns.
  5. Finally, scatter some pomegranate seeds and fresh dill over the top. Delish!

Baby, it’s cold outside! Pumpkin Pie Tiramisu with Coffee-Glazed Pecan Praline

Published December 8, 2014 by The Feminist

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This is one of those desserts that looks kinda freaky and –dare I say it?- ugly, especially if you don’t know what it is.

However, as with many things in life, the most freakish are the most delicious.

weird

And, pssss, I will let you in on a little secret: this tiramisu (yes, that is what this strange-looking thing is) is the yummiest thing you will ever taste. It is a pumpkin pie turned into a tiramisu, which makes it even more delicious and more decadent! Just imagine a homemade pumpkin puree loaded with spices combined with a soothing mascarpone cream into one lovely, orange-coloured mousse! Add to that some heavenly Belgian peperkoek (The Belgian version of gingerbread, only way better) soaked in Amaretto and coffee and for the finishing touch I conjured up some crunchy coffee-glazed pecan praline.

I mean, If you aren’t drooling right now, something is clearly wrong with you.

As you can see, the combination of orange and brown hues is doomed not to look very appetizing, but if you do would like to try to make it look more appealing, you can always opt for individual glasses to serve the tiramisu in. But I always find that too fiddly to spend my time on.

awesome

Another great reason why you have to make this pumpkin pie tiramisu is because it is the ideal dessert to eat when it is cold outside. Just imagine sitting in your sofa, staring at your wonderfully decorated Christmas tree, while gobbling down some of this tiramisu…

Doesn’t this scenario make you want to jump for joy?

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Ha! Thought so!

Here are the instructions:

Ingredients:

For the homemade pumpkin puree:

  • 1 small butternut squash (peeled, deseeded and diced)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp Amaretto
  • 1 tsp corn flour

For the mascarpone mixture:

  • 250gr of mascarpone
  • 400gr homemade pumpkin puree

For the coffee-soaked peperkoek:

  • 1 pack of good-quality peperkoek
  • A huge cup of strong coffee
  • 5tbsp Amaretto

For the coffee-glazed pecan praline

  • 75gr pecan nuts
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Cook the butternut in a pot of boiling water until soft.
  2. Drain and mash together the butternut with the spices and maple syrup. Put the mix back on a very low heat. In a small bowl, mix together the corn flour with the Amaretto. Pour the mix into the mashed butternut and stir.
  3. Spoon the butternut puree into a bowl and refrigerate until cooled.
  4. Mix together the mascarpone with 400gr of the butternut puree. Give it a quick taste to see whether the mix is sweet enough. If not, add some more maple syrup. Set aside.
  5. Start assembling your tiramisu by dunking the peperkoek slices into your coffee and amaretto mix. Put the soaked peperkoek on the bottom of your dish.
  6. Spoon half the pumpkin pie mascarpone mixture onto the peperkoek layer.
  7. Now repeat the dunking process and put another layer of peperkoek on top of your mascarpone cream.
  8. Put in the fridge overnight.
  9. To make your pecan praline, preheat the oven to 180°C and chop the nuts into rough chunks. Put a pan on medium heat and add a heaped tablespoon of caster sugar and wait until it starts to caramelize. Add the coffee granules and the splash of water. Stir in the chopped pecans and add a pinch of salt. Transfer the coffee-caramel-coated pecans onto some baking parchment and put in the oven for 5 minutes until it starts to smell nice (the smell can be best described as “toasty aromatic”. If it more resembles “burnt toasty” you know they have been in there for too long.)
  10. Transfer the nuts to a chopping board and chop them up finely. Scatter them on top of your tiramisu. Dig in!

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Christmas Gifts For Him: A Feminist Guide

Published December 4, 2014 by The Feminist

In exactly twenty days, we will all be sitting around dinner tables, eating delicious food and opening up Christmas presents. It is in many different ways the “most wonderful time of the year” (at least that is what Andy Williams tells me), but unfortunately this fantastic feast is preceded by the enormous stress of having to go Christmas shopping.

But fear no more, dear readers! I’m here to show you the way. The feminist way. And the first chapter in this Christmas gifts series is all about buying the right Christmas present for your partner, because if you approach this task with the right attitude, not only your man will benefit from your gift, you will do too!

So here is my very short –but very cool- selection:

  • In the Category “because there is still room for improvement, darling”: Terry Crew’s “Manhood: How to be a Better Man or Just Live with One”

terry

We all love Terry Crews, but his new book –and in particular his view on feminism, equality and patriarchy- makes me love him even more. Too often do men enter feminist debates and try to “mansplain” everything (not a real word, but humour me for a second here): men telling us what we think or want or what feminism means to them. And that’s great for many obvious reasons, but their opinion and advice –again!- was sprouted by a patriarchal point of view about society. Time and time again MEN keep telling WOMEN what to think/do/want. Although their intentions may be good (are they really?), you have to admit that the whole thing is getting kinda boring. What the feminist debate really needs isn’t men declaring they are feminists and why, no, what we need is more men who aren’t afraid to declare that any guy who doesn’t consider himself a feminist is a total dickweasal/loser/asshole. And Terry does that. So buy your hubbie this book, because who knows, it might convince him to change his views as well. (And we all know how much this world desperately needs some better men, don’t we ladies?)

  • In the category “because whisky makes me frisky”: The Belgian Owl Single Malt 64 Months Whisky

whiqky

Forget about Scottish whiskey, dear readers. This year’s title of best European whisky went to… Belgium! (Yes, my home country, blimey!) Or if you want to buy an even more expensive drink, you can always opt for the world’s best whisky, the Japanese Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask Whisky…

Who am I kidding! Let’s be patriotic for once and stick to the Belgian stuff! This is not only a great gift for him, but also for her, because all strong women (myself included) prefer the strong stuff over the fluffy pink cocktails every single time.

  • In the category “because everyone likes a man who smells nice”: Boss Bottled By Hugo Boss

boss

This could also be in the category “because we all wish our lover would look like Gerard Buttler” but that would be beside the point. And that point is very obvious: men who smell great are just better company. So buy him some heavenly perfume, ladies! Because who wants to kiss an Axe-drenched man under the mistletoe? Nobody, that’s who.

  • In the category “It’s about time he stops running late”: The Philips Wake Up Light.

philips_hf3520-01-wake-up-light_8863733_1

Putting your IPhone alarm on repeat for at least 10 times is sooo 2014. In 2015 your guy will finally manage to be on time thanks to your brilliant gift. This Wake Up Light –as the name suggests- will wake him up (duh) by gently blasting (pardon the contradiction) bright light (duh) into the bedroom.

Also, it looks really stylish, so what’s not to love?

7 not so traditional ways to prepare yourself for Christmas

Published November 27, 2014 by The Feminist

Now that we have had Halloween and Thanksgiving, we can start to look forward to the most festive of holidays: Christmas

There are plenty of ways to prepare yourself for Christmas – like buying presents, decorating your house and listening to Mariah Carey’s notorious earworm- but I decided to look past the clichés (well, sort of anyway) and give you a list of all the other not so traditional ways to get ready for the Holidays.

  • Dance around the house in your PJ’s

I’m not sure why this reminds of Christmas, actually. Maybe it’s the PJ’s. Maybe it’s the dancing. Maybe it’s both. I just know that if you spend half an hour dancing like a complete and utter doofus, suddenly the entire Christmas season will not seem so crazy after all.

Plus: it is just so much fun! You should try it, dear readers

.prepare for xmas

prepare for xmas1

  • Drink hot chocolate, red wine and eggnog

Maybe it is not advisable to drink all of the above at once– because throwing up in a bucket is anything but a great way to kick off the X-mas season – but if you want to, I’m not going to stop you. Just Let me know how it turns out.

red wine

  • Light your house with a thousand candles

Okay, so maybe this is one of those Christmas clichés, but there is simply no getting around it. Because everything starts with candles! It creates warmth, encourages love and friendship and if you opt for the scented version your house will smell heavenly too.

  • Watch this video of a cute dog wearing a teddy bear costume and running on a treadmill

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. A dog. Dressed as a teddy bear. Doing a workout. On a treadmill.

Why would I want to watch it, you ask? Well, cuz it’s darn awesome! But also because watching this video has a very therapeutic effect on body and soul.

First of all, try watching this without starting to oooh and aaaah because of the dog’s insane cuteness. Seriously, watching this has suddenly made me want to throw a pre-Christmas My Little Pony-themed slumber party.

I wish I were joking, but I’m not.

Secondly, this cute dog might actually inspire you to wear an animal costume as well. Just for fun. (Admit it! I know you want to!)

And finally, this dog will make you feel so f***ing lazy –because you’re watching this from behind your laptop whilst wearing sweatpants and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream – which will hopefully encourage you to hit the gym more often to prevent having to buy gigantic holiday pants.

  • Do Burpees

This one is closely linked to the previous item on the list. If you want to avoid those holiday love handles, you have to start now! So come on, do those burpees! Yes, I’m aware that they are absolutely awful. They are absolutely terrifying. But will they have an effect? Absofuckinglutely.

a-da-mo-1

  • Listen to Frank Sinatra

Since it is not even December yet, some people may consider it to be a bit early to start listening to Wham or Ricky Martin Christmas songs. Not to mention singing along to Christmas carols! That is why I suggest you start getting into a Christmas mood by listening to dear oll’ Frank. Mister Sinatra is able to recreate that lovely, cozy Christmassy atmosphere without actually having to use words such as “Christmas tree” or “Santa”.

  • Make soup

Although there is no direct correlation between soup and Christmas, stirring in a large pot of soup makes me feel all fuzzy and warm inside, just like Christmas does. These past couple of weeks I’ve gone all out on the soup front. I’ve made some exotic Garam masala and coconut pumpkin soup with peanut butter. I’ve made Russian beetroot soup with pink peppercorns and vodka (yessss) and yesterday, I conjured up some insane turnip and saffron soup with harrissa roasted pecans.

Sigh.

Needless to say that I couldn’t be in a better mood. A soupy state of mind truly is the best way to roll into the Christmas season.

So these are my seven weird ways to get into a Christmas spirit. What are yours?