Our Open House was wonderful, despite the fact that so many folks were not able to come because of the snow. Usually, on Three Kings Day I tend to make treats evocative of my Cuban roots. We usually serve guava pastries, turrones (sweet nougats made of almonds, marzipan, or ground almonds) and hot chocolate is a MUST. This year, however, I made sandwiches, and cookies, and an almond spice cake. It was all pretty simple.
Here is the Coffee Bar set up to keep my chilly guests warm: Piping hot coffee, with a little something something - Butterscotch Schnapps, Kahlúa and RumChata.
Have you tried RumChata yet? If NOT, please put this on your "Must Try" list for 2014! It's a little bit of a take on Horchata (hence, the "Chata" part of the name). Spanish horchata is a sweet, milky drink made from the chufa, or tiger nut. It tastes a lot like almond milk. You can read all about horchata here. It is delicious! If you are ever in Spain, you must try it, but to truly enjoy it you must sit in a little café under sweltering sun, and wait an hour for the waiter to notice that you are even alive. By the time you get your icy horchata, you would be ready to swear that it's the Nectar of the gods! No really, it's truly delicious! Mexican horchata is slightly different and often made from other kinds of nuts, or even rice! It's still delicious. RumChata took the next step and made it into a liqueur. Add some to your coffee, and you'll be warm and smiling in no time!
The Coffee Bar also included peppermint candy canes, for those that like a little mint in their coffee, and homemade Vanilla Bean syrup, something sweet without the alcohol. There were also some dark-chocolate covered almonds nearby, in case anyone had a chocolate emergency. That happens to me once in a while, so I'm very sympathetic.
There's always cake on Three Kings Day, so we can bury the Baby Jesus in its batter before baking. Whoever finds the plastic baby, is King of the Day and wins a prize. Here is this year's Almond Spice Cake. It was delicious. My son David gave it a thumbs up, and he's a tough cake customer!
Here's another treat: Pecan Butterballs from the Silver Palate Cookbook. I have been making these since 1984, the year I got married. My sister-in-law, Angela, who is a wonderful cook, gave us the cookbook as a wedding present. I'm on my second copy right now. It wouldn't be Christmas around here without these little gems. They are sweetened with a little honey, and they just melt in your mouth. Here's the recipe:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup shelled pecans, chopped moderately fine
¾ cup confectioners' sugar
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease one or two cookie sheets.
- Cream butter. Beat in honey; gradually mix in flour and salt, then vanilla. Add pecans. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
- Form balls by hand, the size of quarters. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Remove from oven; as soon as cool enough to touch, roll in confectioners' sugar. Allow to cool and roll again in sugar.
Guests were asking me for extras to take home! You'll want to double or triple the recipe, if you want any leftovers for yourself!
The basket of Chocolate Chip cookies held four batches of CCCs made by my son, John! They all flew!
The food was spread on a gold-colored tablecloth. Three Kings day is when I bring out the gold, in remembrance of the Magi who brought gold to the Baby Jesus. The covered platter held sandwiches of Tuna Salad à la Vizcaína (Basque-style), it's a delightful twist on tuna salad, with the added roasted red peppers.
The Christmas centerpiece was given a facelift. I removed the wilted blooms, and replaced them with snowy white carnations, gold balls, and a little red cardinal that begged to come out and play.
But after taking a look at his little cousin outside, he decided that he preferred it back in his warm storage box. . . .
It's time to put away the extra Christmas cards!
Now we can sit by the fire and enjoy the wonderful memories we created during this joyful Christmas season! May you have a wonderful new year!