12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Picnic

Every year since I was four the Christmas Elf has come to visit on December 1st, (well not every year – there was that 14-year stretch when there weren’t any kids around.)  But for the past three Christmases, the Christmas Elf has come to visit on December 1st.  During my childhood he would usually leave a cheap chocolate advent calendar (whose distinct chocolate – I admit – holds a nostalgic spell over me.) But as Joel and I got older, the stakes were raised and we began receiving a Christmas countdown calendar full of special messages.

Each morning we would check the little box to see if we were decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies or visiting Santa.  Sometimes, we would get to choose a small gift from the “elf basket” in the living room.  The toys were silly but I know that it was this tradition as much as any other that kept my brother and me believing in the magic of Christmas long after we learned the truth about Santa, (who is totally real by the way – I have a book that proves it.)

We’ve continued this tradition with Madison and last night was one of my favorite activities – the Christmas Picnic.

We lay a blanket out under the big Christmas tree in the living room and eat picnic foods.  After we stuff ourselves silly, we stretch out under the tree and look up through the branches – sharing stories, telling jokes and talking about what we want for Christmas.  I love this tradition for several reasons: 1) dinner is generally pretty easy to make, 2) we break all of the usual dinnertime rules by eating on the floor with plates in our lap and 3) we get to spend time together as a family just being, (and at some point, tickling!)

This year I made melted black forest ham sandwiches with havarti, apples and roasted red peppers, coleslaw, home made potato chips (really easy – and yummy!) tomatillo salsa and peppermint Christmas brownies.  There weren’t any leftovers.

Heather’s Coleslaw, serves 4

1 small head of cabbage, shredded
3 carrots, shredded
3 tbsp mayonnaise
salt & pepper

Combine cabbage, carrots and mayonnaise in a large bowl and mix well.  Salt and pepper liberally before serving.

Martha’s Potato Chips, serves 4

Avoid stirring or turning the potatoes as they bake on each side.  Moving them around will cause them to stick, tearing the crispy surface from the chip.

4 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
Malt vinegar

Heat oven to 425˚.  Place two baking sheets in the oven and let heat for about 10 minutes.  Slice the potatoes into ¼ inch thick rounds.  Toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Remove the baking sheets from the oven and arrange potato slices on sheets in a single layer.  Bake until the potatoes are golden on the bottom side, about 30 minutes.  Turn potatoes over and bake until they are golden brown all over – about 15 minutes more.  Remove from oven, drizzle with vinegar and serve immediately.

Peppermint Christmas Brownies, 16 brownies

I totally cheat on this one and use boxed brownie mix. HOWEVER, only the best boxed brownie will do.  I prefer the Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix.

1 pan of baked brownies
Cream Cheese frosting (recipe below)
6 candy canes, crushed


½ cups unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon peppermint extract

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the peppermint extract.  Frost the brownies and top with crushed candy canes.

One comment on “12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Picnic

  1. Susan Weisberger
    December 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

    I love the Christmas elf.. I would like to add the reason the Elf comes is to pick up the kids Christmas list.
    This way they can’t change their mind because Santa already has the list.
    Believe me, Heather and Joel could change their mind every day.

    The Christmas Elf

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