Recipes for Family Holidays: Fun With Baking and Cooking

recipes for family holidays

One of my family’s favourite traditions is coming up with recipes for family holidays. Whether we stay home for the holidays, or travel somewhere, we know it’s Christmastime when we get cooking. Here are some of our favourite recipes for family holidays.

Christmas Soup

A great recipe to do with kids is Christmas soup. I do a lot of the prep in advance: I chop onions, carrots, and celery, and any other veggies that I have in the fridge. This soup varies based on what ingredients I have handy, but I tend to use root vegetables like potatoes, yams, and parsnips. If I want the soup to be chunky, or I’m too lazy to blend it, then I throw in some cooked rice, cooked quinoa, star pasta, or white beans. Sometimes I will also throw in a can of chopped tomatoes. I use a little turmeric, cumin, and a bit of chili powder to give the soup some kick.

I recruit the kids to help me throw the ingredients in the pot (which they love). When they’re a bit older, I might try to get them to help with the chopping.

Holiday Baking

While shape cookies are a very popular for family holidays, I prefer drop cookies for their simplicity. A shape cookie requires rolling out the dough, cutting out shapes, and then decorating the cookies. Some kids have the attention span for this, but many don’t. Drop cookies offer nearly instant gratification. Most recipes only take about 10 minutes to mix up, and if you make an egg-free recipe then the kids can start eating the raw cookie dough.

I try to keep my cookies on the healthier end of the cookie spectrum. Check out this recipe for molasses cookies. These hazelnut sandwich cookies are also delicious. Just use Nutella as the spread and you’re good to go. Both are great recipes for family holidays. If you want something fun with red and green, check out this recipe for Christmas drop cookies with red and green M&M’s.

No matter which recipes for family holidays you use, cooking or baking with the family is a great way to get in the holiday spirit.

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Gourmet Recipes for Cooking With Beer

cooking with beer

Do you enjoy cooking with beer? Enjoy these five amazing gourmet recipes.

5. Espresso Crusted Sirloin Crostini

Created by Brooke Vosika, this crostini is the perfect recipe to begin a meal built around cooking with beer. Vosika, a native of Philadelphia, is the executive chef with the Four Seasons hotel in Boston and his passionate advocacy for local ingredients shines through in this gourmet twist on the classic Italian appetizer. Vosika’s crostini is deliciously simple and and incorporates the Boston Beer Company’s classic Samuel Adams lager.

4. Crispy Octopus Ssamm

Created by Ricardo Jarquin of Hawaii, this unique dish can be served as an artful appetizer or a small meal for four. Jarquin has put his own unique style into this dish and his choice to use the gourmet Hitachino Nest white ale illustrates this perfectly. While the other ingredients shine in their own right, the perfectly carbonated and uniquely flavoured Japanese twist on the traditional Belgian white beer is internationally award winning. Cooking with this gourmet beer will be a treat by itself.

3. Maine Roasted Lobster Sea Asparagus Frittata

While it incorporates the famous Maine Lobster, this recipe was created by Sebastiano Spriveri in Instanbul and is a perfect blend of European cuisine and Asian beer. Delicate preparation and the finest ingredients make this a difficult dish to create, but the results will be well worth the effort. Spriveri recommends serving the finished dish with the Efes Dark beer used in creating it, and it is truly a continent spanning match. Efes is an institution in eastern Europe, and while the Dark beer will taste unusual to some, the unique taste matches this dish beautifully.

2. Organic Beef and Gold Muddler Ale Pie

This modern gourmet twist on the classic British steak and ale pie is truly unique. Created by Cyrille Pannier – a native of Le Mans France – and incorporating simple contemporary ingredients local to Hampshire, this dish brings cooking with beer back to its hearty homegrown roots with international style. The beer used to create it, Gold Muddler, is also created locally in Hampshire but is as modern as Pannier’s take on the beef and ale pie. Founded in 2008, the brewery specializes in updating classic British brews.

1. Odell’s IPA Glazed Pineapple Bacon Doughnuts

These doughnuts, created by Dagan Stocks, are the logical choice for dessert after a meal featuring the finest gourmet beer recipes. Although created using a classic British ale and fresh pineapple from Hawaii, this dish has a distinctive American flair to it. Influences from the dish’s Colorado roots extend even into the beer used to create it – an even bolder and more flavourful twist on a beer designed by the British to be bold and flavourful.

Family Vacation Ideas for the Holiday Season

family vacation ideas

Are you looking for family vacation ideas for a trip this holiday season? There are plenty of family-friendly vacation options if you want to get away over the holidays. Here are some great family vacation ideas for the holiday season.

Amsterdam

While you may have visited Amsterdam for very different reasons in your younger years, consider revisiting the Dutch capital with your family in December. The legend of Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas) permeates the Christmas decorations. Take your family out on the outdoor skating rinks. New Year’s Eve is celebrated with champagne and fireworks – what could be better than that?

Finland

If you’re going to go North, you might as well go all the way. Finland offers amazing winter-time activities, including being pulled by reindeer in a sleigh and Northern Lights viewing. The cross-country skiing is unparalleled.

Munich

Munich has more than two dozen Christmas markets and a hundred foot tall Christmas tree in the Marienplatz (central city square). The city is also famous for its mulled wine and gingerbread. Munich is an enchanting city in which to celebrate the holidays. A trip here will be a magical family vacation.

Provence

Provence is like a fairy tale in the winter, and will make for a memorable family vacation if you have children old enough to remember it, but young enough to be taken with its magic. The cobblestone streets are filled with markets selling fresh local foods. Music from medieval churches spills out in the winter air, and Christmas Eve dinner is a traditional grand souper (Great Supper).

Bali

If you want to get away somewhere warm for the holidays, Bali is lovely this time of year. With its accepting culture and mix of religions, any holiday or tradition that you want to celebrate will be welcomed. The best family vacations always involve a little beach time. Plus, the food in Bali is to-die-for, especially if turkey and ham aren’t your thing.

New York, New York

Any list of family vacation ideas would be incomplete without the Big Apple. New York is magical at Christmastime. Take the kids skating in Central Park, check out the Christmas tree at 30 Rockfeller Place, and don’t miss all the window displays along 5th Avenue. And of course there are loads of sweet treats to try in New York’s famous bakeries. For a traditional Christmas dinner or buffet, make a reservation at a Manhattan hotel’s restaurant.

I hope that this list has given you some great family vacation ideas for the holidays! I would love to hear yours as well. Happy trails to you and your family.

Luxury Vacations: Top Five Reasons for a Tropical Vacation in Langkawi

If you’ve never heard of people taking luxury vacations in Langkawi, you’re not alone. This archipelago of 99 magical islets in the Andaman Sea is located just off Malaysia’s west coast. Langkawi was recently named Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO World Geopark. Here are the top five reasons that people are taking luxury vacations in Langkawi.

Spectacular and Diverse Landscapes

luxury vacations

Langkawi Geopark is home to 550 million years of geological history. Langkawi has incredibly diverse landscapes, including mangrove forests, rain forests, sandstone mountains, and coral reefs. The stunning landscapes of Langkawi are unrivalled in all of Southeast Asia. Pictured above is beautiful Cenang Beach.

Explore the Magical Rain Forest

Langkawi’s rain forest is over 1 million years old – one of the oldest rain forests in the world! You can take a rain forest trek to see unique species of animals and plants, including some very rare butterflies. The Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) Waterfalls is a must-see spot. Local legend has it that this is the home of mountain fairies. Luxury vacations just aren’t complete with a shower under the waterfalls and lounging in the natural pools beneath them. Some people choose to relax on the surrounding rocks and enjoy a picnic underneath the tropical trees.

Eat Delicious Malaysian Cuisine

Malaysian cuisine offers a wide variety of delectable culinary traditions to choose from, including Malay-Indo, Indian, Thai, and Chinese. Langkawi’s bustling night markets offer a wide variety of amazing street food at very affordable prices. The night markets are open every night at various locations around the island. Ask at your hotel for the best markets on any given night. The food is delicious and the perfect compliment to any tropical vacation.

Mangrove Safaris

Luxury vacations in Langkawi feature boat tours of Langkawi’s wetlands and limestone caves, where you can discover a unique ecosystem with plenty of amazing animals to spot: walking-fish, monitor lizards, and spectacular eagles. The mangroves even offer opportunities to spot otters and dolphins. Be sure to take a tour guided by a naturalist in order to learn all that you can about this incredible ecosystem.

Amazing Scuba Diving in Warm Water

The Pulau Payar Marine Park offers some of the best scuba diving in the world and a well-protected coral reef. The diving conditions range from beginner-friendly flat terrain to more challenging slopes. Visibility can be up to 15m in the clear water. Snorkelling is also available. For those who prefer to stay dry, the Marine Park also features an enclosed underwater observation chamber. Relax and watch the fish go by.

Langkawi is a truly unique destination that offers sun, fun, spectacular landscapes, delicious cuisine, and a laid back local culture. No wonder so many people are booking luxury vacations to this incredible island.

Beach Weddings: How to Find the Best Venues

wedding venues for beach weddings

Are you planning a beach wedding and looking for the best venues to choose from? Beach weddings can be picturesque and ultra romantic, but you have to be sure to pick the right wedding venue. Look no further – here are some great tips on how to find the best venues for beach weddings.

All Inclusive Resorts

All inclusive resorts can be some of the best wedding venues for a number of reasons:
Easy and convenient: These venues plan hundreds of beach weddings and usually have many package options. Instead of making a hundred and one decisions, you can simply choose the package that you want and leave the rest to the hotel. Of course many resorts also offer a lot of choices if you’re looking for more customization.
One price: Another benefit of choosing a package deal is that you can easily stay within your budget. When you’re planning a wedding, it’s easy to forget about budget busting extras, but if you purchase a package you can make sure that the final number is within your budget.
Beautiful locations and photos: People choose beach weddings for the romantic locations, warm weather, and spectacular photos. All-inclusive resorts often have beach front locations, ensuring that you’ll have amazing photos and a picturesque location for your ceremony.

Small Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts

If you don’t want to go the all-inclusive route, are choosing a local beach, or are planning a more intimate wedding, consider smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts for wedding venues. Especially if you want to get married on a beach close to home, a bed and breakfast could be an affordable alternative to a big resort. Just be sure to keep all your wedding extras (flowers, tents, seating) in check.

Smaller hotels are also a great option if you are doing a destination wedding but want to experience more of the local culture. Look for hotels that have experience doing beach weddings, and make sure that there will be enough space for all your guests. You may also want to contact other couples who have been married at a particular location.

Churches Near the Beach

Who says that church weddings and beach weddings are mutually exclusive? Why not get married in a church and head down to the beach for the reception and/or wedding pictures? This is a great option if you live in a location with a beach but don’t want to have an outdoor ceremony, or want to have a traditional ceremony in a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or other religious venue.

No matter what option you choose, beach weddings are picturesque and very romantic. Good luck with your wedding plans!

Wedding Ideas for Amazingly Beautiful Makeup

wedding ideas for bridal makeup

Brides are constantly looking for wedding ideas and especially bridal makeup tips. On your wedding day you will be photographed hundreds, possibly even thousands of times. You want to look your absolute best, while still projecting a look of natural bridal beauty. It can be a tough balance to strike. If you are hiring a professional, be sure to schedule a consultation and trial before the big day. If you’re doing your own makeup, do a dry run (or two, or three) before your wedding. Experiment with different products, and be sure that you’ve covered every eventuality. If you are breaking out from the stress of the wedding, or have bags under your eyes from lack of sleep, know in advance what you’ll do. If you’re still deciding on your look, here are some great wedding ideas for perfect bridal makeup.

Ethereal Beauty

Thinking blushing bride or woodland nymph. Many wedding ideas for decor centre on an outdoorsy or ethereal theme. Your makeup can match! Think flawless, glowing skin with a dewy appearance. The key to this look is to make sure that you know how to fake flawless skin if you don’t have it – and few of us are that lucky! Find an amazing concealer, and be open to using different products for blemishes, uneven skin tone, and under eyes. A good highlighter can also make a big difference. If you have never used a highlighter before, be sure to look around for a good one and practice, practice, practice. Use a soft, pinkish blush and soft pink lips to finish off this look.

Wine Lips and Golden Eyes

This look isn’t for everyone, but if your wedding ideas include a fall wedding, consider this glamourous, autumnal look. A dramatic cranberry or wine shade on the lips paired with eyes done in a golden shadow. You can play with the eyes to find the right amount of drama for you. Use a subtle black liner to define your eyes once you’ve applied the shadow. For the lips, find the perfect wine shade and consider using a liner for a totally matte finish. You need to add some dewiness to the skin to balance out a matte lip (otherwise you’ll look totally 80’s) so use a good highlighter or dab some face cream over the makeup to give your cheeks a little bit of shine.

For more great wedding ideas and especially makeup ideas, check out this great slideshow over at Elle.com.

Luxury Vacations: Travel Magazines Feature China

luxury vacations in china

Source: Wikipedia

China is an exciting country and there are many amazing luxury vacation packages to be found. A great city to explore that is a bit off the beaten path is Hangzhou. In the western Chinese province of Xhejiang, Hangzhou is nestled next to beautiful West Lake. Escape to the lake for a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. West Lake has been an attraction for centuries, and now those from far and wide can enjoy its beauty. The Solitary Hill is an ideal place from which to admire the splendour of the lake. You can take a cruise boat around West Lake, which is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the rolling hills. West Lake is beautiful all year – visitors are particularly fond of the autumn colours. The beautiful autumn colours would be the highlight of your luxury vacation, but West Lake is also beautiful in the spring and summer.

If you stay at the Four Seasons at West Lake you will have a great view of the lake. The Four Seasons also offers tai chi lessons, and beautiful private gardens where you can relax and sip oolong tea. Luxury vacations are made for relaxing, and the Four Seasons is the best place to enjoy yourself and let the tranquility of the lake really seep in.

Hangzhou is also the home of the China National Silk Museum. Definitely stop in to learn about silk – a truly amazing fabric. Silk worms eat only mulberry tree leaves, and the tree flourishes in Hangzhou’s subtropical climate. The museum showcases an array of impressive silk garments, and also details the history of the silk trade in China.

The Temple of Soul’s Retreat (Lingyin Temple) is also a must-see. This temple’s presence can be traced back to 400 AD during the Eastern Jin Dynasty. The temple’s beautifully painted ceilings and famous statues have helped increased its fame in the area. The temple also contains an important collection of Buddhist books. The temple is just a short drive from the Four Seasons. There are also tourist buses heading here from the city of Hangzhou. For more information on luxury vacations in the area, check out this tourist guide.