Wow…so it’s Christmas already! When did that happen?! Is anyone else finding it hard to get in the Christmas spirit this year? I’ve been so busy running from point A to point B for the past several weeks, that, apart from snow appearing on the ground, I’ve barely noticed the creeping up of the Holiday Season.
Sure, I’ve heard the almost constant whine of in-store Christmas jingles for the past couple of months. (I have seriously considered tossing the radio across the room with the number of times I’ve heard the theme song to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I love the song in the movie itself, but when heard completely apart from the movie, it’s pretty much like listening to the WORST commercial ever!) I’ve seen snow-dusted Christmas trees lined up for sale at (super)markets. And several times, I’ve walked through oh-so-classic wafts of clementine that hail Christmas. But I’ve been in such a haze of stress and looming appointments that they have barely made me stop dead in my tracks with flashbacks of happy Christmases from my childhood (as they usually do). That’s sad, right?
Christmas has always been my favourite holiday; filled with traditions, warm feelings (and drinks…and cookies), special movies, music, and foods, and time with family. This year, my Christmas is going to be completely different than I’ve ever experienced. And not really in a good way. You see, I don’t get a vacation this year. I won’t be at home with my family. (Heck, for the first time in my life, I won’t see my family on Christmas day.) I won’t have a Christmas tree (mostly because I don’t have the time to set one up or take it down, nor the money). My brother’s and my tradition of waking up early to make a huge breakfast for my parents will, for the first time in 20 years, not be taking place.
I’ve been telling myself that (hopefully) it will just be for this year, that this is part of my transition to #adulting, etc.; that even if it’s harder for me now, it will be that much better later, that the only reason it’s harder for me is because I want bigger things than showing up day in and day out to do the same thing over and over again for the next 35 years, but I always knew that getting through my first #adulting Christmas was going to be hard.
I’ve been reminding myself that despite ALL the stress I have in my life right now (both financial and life), ‘Cheer’ is free, as is being present in the moment. So even if my Christmas can’t live up to its traditional self, I can at the very least let myself enjoy the 2-second bursts of nostalgia that I get when I get them. I can still ‘watch’ my favourite Christmas movies, even if it’s while I cook or work on other things. I can still listen to my favourite Christmas albums, even if I only listen to them en route to Point B. In other words, even if it’s not in its traditional package, I can take in all the Cheer that this Christmas has to offer.
I’ve also been reminding myself that in the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a few opportunities knock on my door which have the potential of being utterly awesome and are so completely in line with what I put myself through a second grueling Master’s to do! They’re scary and uncertain in so many ways, but they’re also possibly the BEST Christmas present I could give to myself. I just need to spend a few days over the next couple of weeks setting things up. So what if it means spending a bit less time in the Christmas spirit? If there is one thing in the world I’m not afraid of, it’s hard work (hell, my name actually MEANS hard work and striving. Am pretty sure my parents had NO idea how right they were when they named me Amelia); especially when I know it will be worth it!
AND, most importantly, despite the fact that my Christmas is not going to live up to its traditional hype (and this is really what Christmas is about folks) the BF if coming to MTL to spend Christmas with me even though he HATES the 6-hour bus ride (buses just aren’t designed for people over 6′ with broad shoulders) and his ideal Christmas is having the day to himself watching Die Hard and eating Mac ‘n’ Cheese. (The BF is a bit of a Grinch, but a friendly one).
And just after he leaves, my family is coming to MTL from Niagara-on-the-Lake and Ottawa to spend a belated Christmas with me (when I’m not working) as well as New Years. Instead of my brother and I making Christmas breakfast, my Mum is gonna take over and she’s going to try completely different recipes which I’m sure will be delicious and totally worth the Benadryl. (They’re also bringing donuts from Beechwood Donuts in St. Catharines which are most certainly worth the Benadryl).
We’ll still have our Duck à l’Orange for Christmas Dinner, just on a different night. We’ll get to watch all of our favourite Christmas movies together, just on a different couch.
And do you wanna know what else we’ll be eating? My latest holiday dessert creation! I call it Panna Colada – a.k.a Coconut Panna Cotta. Only it’s not just any old Panna Cotta recipe. I’ve added Red Wine Poached Pears AND a Red Wine Syrup for drizzling (or guzzling because it’s THAT good). AND I’ve created Paleo and Vegan options! (Yes. I know that TECHNICALLY wine isn’t Paleo. BUT after boiling it for 20 minutes, I figure all the alcohol has burned off, and then all that’s left is sour grape juice. And grape juice IS Paleo.) Holla!
If you guys are looking for a healthy (though you wouldn’t know it), yet decadent dessert for Christmas or New Years parties, look no further. I’ve been eating this every night for the past month and I can’t get enough. Better yet, it’s pretty damn simple to make.
So really, I guess the moral of the story is that despite everything going on in my life right now and even though my Christmas isn’t going to meet my traditional expectations, it may be even better BECAUSE it has been reduced to what matters; spending time with the people who matter the most…annnnnd possibly eating healthy portions of Panna Colada with Poached Pears and Red Wine Syrup…
Happy Holidays Guys!
Panna Colada with Poached Pears and Red Wine Syrup
Decadently creamy, yet vegan AND paleo Panna Cotta with Poached Pears and a Red Wine Syrup. The perfect dessert for Christmas or New Years. Seriously.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 30 mins
- Yield: 4 servings
| Poached Pear Things |
- 1 1/2 cups Red Wine
- 1 1/2 cups Water
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 4 Bosc pears, peeled and cored
- 1/2 cup Sugar or 1/3 cup Agave syrup (for the Paleo-er version)
- Optional: 1/8 tsp Agar Agar powder
| Panna Colada Things |
- 3 cups full-fat Coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp Agar Agar Powder OR 2 1/2 tsp Gelatin Powder
- 3 tbsp Agave syrup
- 2 tsp Vanilla Paste OR Vanilla Extract
- 2 pinches Coarse Salt
| Poaching the Pears |
- Pour your wine and water into a medium-small thick-bottomed pot. Place pot over medium-low heat, and add your cinnamon stick.
- While you wait for your wine to come to a simmer, peel and core your pears.
- Add pears to your simmering wine, and poach for 20 mins, I tend to lay them on their side in the pot, and roll them every 5 minutes or so to make sure that the pears take on an even colour (and poach evenly, of course).
- When poached, remove pears and place them on a paper-towel covered plate to cool.
- Add your sugar/agave syrup to the wine, and reduce until about 1/4 cup of wine remains. IF you’re using agave syrup instead of sugar, add the Agar Agar powder as well. Still until the agar agar dissolves.
- Set red wine syrup aside in a tupperware or covered bowl to cool. The red wine syrup can be left out or put in the fridge until you serve your panna coladas.
| Panna Colada |
- Pour about half of your coconut milk in a medium thick-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Sprinkle the agar agar/gelatin powder in a light layer across the surface of the milk, and stir with a fork. The goal is to form as few clumps as possible.
- Add the rest of your coconut milk, agave syrup, vanilla paste/extract, and salt.
- Heat until your colada mixture comes to a low boil, making sure to stir consistently and avoid clumps.
- Arrange your pears in individual serving cups/bowls. Pour your colada mixture into each cup, making sure to divide it evenly between them.
- Allow your panna coladas to cool for about 20 minutes before putting them in the fridge for 4 hours or over night.
- Drizzle your red wine syrup over the panna coladas just prior to serving.
| Cooking Notes |
- Red wine: Number 1 rule when selecting a wine to cook/bake with. ONLY pick a wine you’re also willing to drink on its own. A) Why cook with something that’s too putrid to drink? It will just make whatever you’re cooking putrid as well. B) This recipe only uses half a bottle of wine. This means wine in the kitch’ guys. Cooking is SO much more fun with a glass of wine in one hand!
- Sugar vs Agave syrup for the spiced wine reduction. If you want an actual syrup and don’t care about the recipe being Paleo, use sugar for the red wine reduction. If you want to make the recipe more Paleo, go with the agave syrup and agar agar powder combination. You won’t get a syrup per se. It will be closer to a jelly. But it will still be delicious!
- Agar agar vs gelatin for the Panna Colada. I actually prefer the texture of the Panna Colada with the agar agar powder, but if you’re not a vegan AND can’t find it, or happen to already have gelatin in your cupboard, using gelatin works too. Those of you who want to give Agar agar a try, you can usually find it in a health food store like Aliments Merci at Jean Talon Market.
| Alternative Serving Option |
- If you don’t have small bowls to put the pears in, you can also cut the pears in half lengthwise before poaching them, and then arrange them, flat side down, in a ceramic pie dish or serving dish of some sort. This is what I do when I’m making it for myself. Fewer dishes to wash and put away.
Okay…so that’s about that for this week folks! I hope you all have an amazing holiday season, surrounded by those you love (and who love you, bien sûr).
Also, stay tuned! I have a feeling that some of the opportunities I mentioned above will mean new and exciting things for the blog as well!
Per usual, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments box below. Or you can always send me an email! Either way, I would love to hear from you!
Ciao for now!