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spice up the table for the holidays

Most when thinking about either Thanksgiving or Christmas will recall the smell of spices and delicacies as well as the baking process. Many culinary traditions start in the kitchen and end on the table smelling and looking beautiful!

The very first smells that came into my mind and remind me about my traditional Polish Christmas is the cake packed with delicacies.

Inspired by the season and before I start my baking I put all my favorite ingredients together in preparation for the upcoming celebration.


The ones that I think of...

I spice the season with:

  • cloves that I only learnt about due to German hot wine. Now I also use them for seasoning meat or making tea.

  • cinnamon, I grew up not liking it but I am slowly changing my mind. It's funny I convinced my brain that it's a healthy additive for food but my recent research doesn't exactly prove it. Usually I use the powder for baking and bark pieces for my hot tea.

  • ginger that I recently have been incorporating in my cooking both fresh (for tea again and juicing) and powder form.

Dried fruits

The ones that I like...

Here we have:

  • raisins, these I grew up with. They were added to so many of my mother's and grandmother's baked goods. Now, I often add them to my morning oatmeal.

  • prunes will be my favorite I'm thinking because of its smoky smell. I use them for different dishes.

  • cranberries, especially in America are used for Thanksgiving. I usually use them for my salads to add a little bit of sweetness.


The ones that I use and eat the most...

For the holiday and not only:

  • walnuts, I recall the tree that grows in my parents garden and peeling the skin from the new nuts that fell on the ground. Now I only get the dried ones, occasionally still in the shells.

  • almonds, I tend to buy already sliced ones as they taste somehow different yet they keep the crunch.

  • pecans, I like their softness. They are often added to Thanksgiving dishes.

A simply way to get into the holiday mood is to start with a well spiced drink. So I prepared it with spices from the first picture above plus fresh ginger and oranges. I'm not sure why tropical food of orange is the holiday fruit but I really like it.

My homemade tea or maybe just flavored hot water with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and orange! This tea set traveled here from Poland as I received it as a gift and I cherish a lot.

The ingredients from the second and third picture became the base for my cake and below are few pictures of the process. I start with the most important items - the delicacies. The struggle I have with converting Polish recipes to Americans is the different measuring system. In Poland we use "glass" which I don't have and most importantly the special cake form dedicated specifically to this cake. So as usual I improvise. After so many years I never know if the whipped egg white "shine" enough (supposedly you should use the eggs at the room temperate which I do). The consistency also seems too thick. I did it, I improved and that's enough for now.

My history of baking isn't very good. I blame my mother for not teaching me and she blames me for not having interest in learning. The consequences are I am learning by trial and error which doesn't always taste good. I however don't give up. At least not yet! I think the last picture proves that I shouldn't.

The combination of my spices, dried fruits and nuts looks beautiful and the preparation was enjoyable. It doesn't taste like mom's yet. Maybe it never will.

I hope you're going to engage yourself in the holiday season too!

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