Joji of the very citrusy Ala Eh! is hosting her first Lasang Pinoy, and chose a particularly appropriate theme for Christmas, because as we all know THE best way to celebrate Christmas is by GIVING. (Or is it?) She invites us to tell our LP readers about food that we choose to make/purchase at Christmastime and give as gifts.

To really prepare our hearts and home for Jesus’ coming this year, the kids and I decided to stay home while Dad travelled for work (don’t ask me why they always send him away right when the Advent season begins — I’ve never been able to figure it out). And then the boys decided at the last minute that they were going with Dad for a few days’ stay at Mama’s. So the girls and I had a few days to ourselves when we crafted and cleaned and cooked and baked. We started cooking and baking right after Thanksgiving, with everything going into full swing December 4. Our goal was to bake or cook one cookie and one entree per day, a schedule we didn’t adhere to but worked out very well followed 75% of the time. This isn’t even a complete list yet, as we still have a bunch more that we haven’t posted, but you’ll get the idea:

  • The Advent season started with a party December 3, to which I brought this eggless rellenong manok — a first for me (not the stuffed chicken, but the eggless aspect), but had to try for hubby’s sake. The filling held together well enough, but I missed the lightness and cohesiveness from the eggs. So in 2007, I will incorporate the eggs, but leave a thigh and leg stuffed with a portion of eggless mixture.
  • Springerle – a very traditional German cookie that smells and tastes delightfully of anise
  • Mini Crab Cakes – prepared days in advance and frozen, then thawed and baked the day of the party, 15 minutes at 375 degrees — this isn’t necessarily a Christmas staple in our house, but I just thought it would be nice to have this year
  • Stef’s Christmas Biscotti — yup, my own recipe, which I tweak just a wee bit every year; I’d love to make more right now because we’re already out, but Yena our nut-monster has snacked on the pistachios and finished every single one; I was wondering what kind of big mouse was it nibbling on the nuts and leaving the shells in various corners of our living room — until I found out it was a very large, long-haired one, with an impish smile and dimples, and a hug for mom to say she’s (not really) sorry
  • Aisa’s Drommar, my teen’s baking prowess really shows in these cookies — see how meticulous she is in shaping them? I need to get on her case about typing up that recipe though.
  • Nick Malgieri’s Cuccidati, or fig cookies, or what *I* call fruitcake in a cookie — so much goodness in that little horseshoe! I’ll try to type that recipe by tonight.
  • I was going to give pannetone as gifts too, but plans were shelved as I had a little trouble with the barm and seed culture. As you can probably guess, though, I haven’t given up. Just waiting another week for the kids to get 100% better (me too) and I’ll see if that barm is ready for some action!
  • Spiced Nuts for the Nibbles Table at the party. This has always been a no-fail crowd pleaser for me. I’ve been somewhat embarrassed by the reception it gets at parties — once I took it to a party and it disappeared faster than the party hostess’ appetizers!
  • Aisa’s Mascarpone Creams — sometimes I think my dd goes overboard with her decorations, but they ARE very effective, don’t you think?
  • my 2006 Christmas truffles; Aisa has her own Christmas ornament ball truffles — so pretty — but I think kailangan ko na kulitin so she can post them!
  • These snowflakes were going to grace the tops of our gifts this year, but they were just too fragile for that. They were instead used as fireplace ornaments, complete with thought bubbles (don’t ask).
  • Mini cheesecakes, one of the few things remaining in the freezer as there was no more room at the dessert table for it
  • Marie Rudisill’s fruitcake; if this turns out well (nope, we haven’t tried it, waiting it to mature a bit more) — I will make mini ones for gift giving this 2007.
  • Not my favorite lebkuchen, Aisa made these Saint Nicholas ones to celebrate St. Nick’s on December 6 – they still got eaten!
  • I didn’t grow up giving morcon or embutido for gifts, but I’ve since copied my hubby’s aunt, who gives these to Pinoy families who can’t/won’t make these themselves. The meats are presliced and immersed in sauce in an oven-proof container, which is given as part of the gift.
  • These samosas were a hit at the party as well
  • There’s more: rumballs, rainbow cookies, sugarplums, drei augen, etc. that we haven’t posted yet, so feel free to come back here in a week or so when we’re sure to have updated
  • .

The cookies were stacked in a box, with a gold-painted nativity scene Springerle showing through the window as you see here:
and given in a Christmas gift bag along with a box or two of these:

There was supposed to be a very Pinoy element to my post, as I had meant for the Advent part of our celebrations to be reserved for the gifts we send prior to Christmas, and during the 12 days of Christmas I was going to concentrate on making Filipino gifts that we still send through Epiphany.

[You didn’t know that was allowed? I didn’t either. In fact, I still get a lot of flack from Papa if he catches me working on my Christmas cards and it’s already December 28. A-ha! Last year, I found out that a few of my 4Real mom friends do indeed send out cards all through the Christmas season, AND even gift-giving is extended through Epiphany. I wish I had known about this long ago, I might have saved hubby and me a lot of grief!!! If you think about it, it also takes away the emphasis of me-me-me at Christmas, at least for the kids, when your gift-giving is spread out through the Advent and Christmas season, as opposed to them getting a windfall at Christmas Eve/Day and forgetting that it’s JESUS’s birthday we’re celebrating, NOT OURS! And so we’ve learned to give gifts at St. Nick’s day (December 6), a few at Christmas, and more gifts on Epiphany, when the Magi came bearing gifts. This year, I think I may make the kids some kingly, velvety cloaks for Epiphany. But as usual, I digress…]

As I was saying, the 12 days of Christmas were going to be devoted to the Pinoy stuff — the Sanikulas version of the Springerle, langka and ube pastillas, yema balls, I was even planning a nice barquiron to be wrapped in gold-starred-tissue… but Christmas night and every night through Friday one of us fell sick… victims of the yearly flu. Sigh. The Pinoy gifts will have to wait ’til Valentine’s Day gift-giving, or even Easter. Some of the gifts we had left on our to-make list were easy ones — hot cocoa peppermint mix, Russian tea mix, various herbed and spiced grissini (breadsticks), etc.

But it was time to wrap up the rush, rush… and turn to the hush, hush of the Christmas season. I was tempted to dwell on what we didn’t get to do — trips we were planning to take with family that came, places and people we wanted to see, ah, and the after-Christmas sales! But God had other plans for me.

Yes, we share the spirit of Christmas when we give, give, give. But because I had to be in bed, sick kids all around me, I was also able to spend great lengths of time just praying and reading my Bible, a child (sometimes two) nestled in the crook of my arm. It’s another kind of Christmas celebration, a peaceful one — I didn’t even have to do anything! I could simply gaze at Jesus’ face on Mary’s lap, allow myself to be enfolded in my Father’s arms, and rejoice and marvel at all these blessings from Him, the Greatest Giver of all. Isn’t it amazing how God makes it possible for the holiness of Christmas to come to us in the most loving way, when we simply hold out our hands and hearts and spirits, and RECEIVE silently, His Greatest Gift?

Hope you all had a blessed, gift-filled Christmas, in more ways than one.

Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!