On a snow blustery Saturday morning a few weeks before Christmas, our family bundles up in winter jackets, colorful hats and scarves, gloves and of course boots for a traditional Christmas tree hunting adventure. Even Megan, our little schnauzer dressed in her red snow suit is excited about this hunting event. With a packed wicker basket, blankets and a thermos full of hot Caramel Almond Mocha, we are ready to jump in the truck and head for the tree cutting farm in North Carolina.
Over the mountains and through the woods we go, singing Christmas carols and enjoying the beautiful wet snow that continues to fall on our way to Newland, North Carolina. We arrive at the tree farm and a gaggle of children are already dragging freshly cut evergreens down the snow packed trail at the foot of mountain. Some families already have their trees mounted to their cars and trunks open for tailgating. Now, we must decide… do we look for the tree first or do we tailgate? The decision is made to have a few cookies and a cup of mocha before heading to the rows of snow-flocked evergreen trees. We will select a Frasier Fir tree, some garland and a couple of wreaths to take home.
There are several Christmas tree farms in our region and a quick internet search will provide the names and locations. A note about tree cutting farms; after you make your tree selection they will cut it down for you and bind it with twine for the journey home. They will also provide you with tips on how to take care of your fresh cut tree for the asking. Be sure to keep some of the trimmings from the tree and get a few extra limbs to deck the halls at home.
On an interesting note, the 2015 White House Christmas Tree for the Blue Room will be from Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin and First Reserve Champion is Sturgill Tree Farms from West Jefferson, North Carolina. Larry Smith Mountain Top Frasier Fir tree farm from Newland, North Carolina was the first place finalist for the Spruce tree. The Blue Room tree is normally an 18’ Frasier Fir and is decorated with 1,000 ornaments. A cherry picker is brought in to decorate the top of this stately tree. The Blue Room’s antique chandelier is removed so the tree top ornament will almost touch the ceiling. It is very exciting to see the fresh tree and trees brought in to the White House for decorating. I have been honored in the past several years to serve as a “volunteer” Holiday designer/decorator at the People’s House.
A red, black and white plaid blanket provides a warm and cozy tabletop for the truck tailgate. The white dinner and zebra salad plate serve as chargers for the mini red cocottes while the black and white striped mugs are waiting to be filled with a hot beverage. Black napkins are rolled tightly with silverware and are stacked by the plates. For this tailgate, porcelain dinnerware was used but melamine would be a great and welcomed substitute. Part of creating a memory is using the very best dinnerware and ingredients for the simplest occasion, even if it requires more work for the host.
The tailgate menu is warming to the soul with simple ingredients full of flavor. The small red cocottes (casseroles) are filled on location with a hearty Italian Tortellini Soup. The soup has chicken and beef broth, Italian sweet sausage tortellini, diced tomatoes seasoned with garlic, basil, and oregano, cannellini beans, baby spinach and kale leaves. Mini corn meal muffins are served as side bread with the soup.
For dessert, Christmas tree cut-out cookies are decorated with green sparkling sugar and an icing garland with tiny red ball ornaments. The recipe is simple to assemble and bake without losing the shape of the cut- out. Some butter cookies will spread while baking, this one does not. You will love this cookie recipe to make with your children this holiday season.
Kids of all ages will enjoy eating the Christmas tree cookies with a warm cup of Caramel Maple Almond Mocha. The mocha is made with almond milk, decaf coffee and maple syrup. Caramel topping is drizzled over the whipped cream. Sweetened cocoa is sifted over the top of the Almond Mocha for fun and flavor. Did someone say milk and cookies…both are simply delicious on a cold wintery day!
The Christmas tree cutting tailgate can be served up sassy any time you gather with your family and friends from trimming the tree to hosting an impromptu open house. Whether you go to a tree farm to cut your own or to the corner lot, make this season one to remember with a festive and easy- to-go tailgating menu. Share this meal with your neighbor or with someone who is alone this Christmas. Both of you will be blessed beyond measure.
May this Christmas season bring you many memorable moments and great blessings for the New Year!
Helping you Make a Statement, Make it Sassy and Make it Yours!
Caramel Maple Almond Mocha Recipe
- Yield: 6 servings
4 cups almond milk
1-1/3 cups brewed decaf or regular coffee
½ cup maple syrup
6 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping-divided
4 teaspoons Hershey Special Dark Cocoa-divided
1-cup heavy whipping cream
1-teaspoon maple syrup
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Drizzle with caramel sauce and dust with cocoa
In large saucepan, combine, milk, coffee, syrup, 3 T. caramel sauce and 2 teaspoons cocoa over medium heat, stirring occasionally until simmering but not boiling.
In small bowl, beat the heavy cream until it begins to thicken, add maple syrup and powdered sugar, beat until stiff peaks form. Serve with mocha. Drizzle with caramel sauce and dust with cocoa.
Italian Tortellini Soup Recipe
- Yield: 6-8 -1/2 cup servings
3 cups beef broth
3 cups chicken broth
1-9 ounce package refrigerated Sweet Italian Sausage Tortellini
1-15.5 oz can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
1-14 ½ oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano-undrained
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
½ teaspoon sea salt and celery salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1-1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
½ cup baby kale leaves
Parmesan cheese, shredded as garnish
- In a large saucepan or Dutch oven combine broths, tomatoes, beans to a simmering boil.
- Add tortellini and cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
- Stir in all seasoning and spinach and kale leaves, cook until leaves wilt.
- Serve soup in mini casseroles or soup bowls, garnish with shredded Parmesan Cheese and crusty rolls with Olive oil dipping spices.
Christmas Tree Butter Cookie Recipe
- Yield: 3 dozen-3" cookies
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar, processed in blender or food processor for 30 seconds
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. Almond extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Meringue Powder Butter Cream Frosting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes medium speed.
Add yolk, beat well.
Add whole egg, vanilla and almond extract. beat until well-incorporated.
Add flour; beat at low speed just until flour is blended.
Divide dough in halves or thirds and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour and up to 2 days.
Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour.
Roll dough to 1/4″ thick, sprinkling with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. C
Cut out cookies with Christmas Tree Shaped Cutter, place on baking sheet.
Bake until cookies are brown 10-12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks and cool completely before decorating.Meringue Powder Butter Cream Frosting Instructions
- Place half of the powdered sugar and the meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk together well.
- Turn on mixer (use whip attachment) and, while motor is running, slowly stream in the water. Mix until everything is incorporated.
- Turn mixer to high speed and whip until stiff peaks form.
- Add flavorings and mix well.
- Change to paddle attachment for stand mixer If using a hand mixer, use the same beaters you were using before.
- Add remaining powdered sugar and shortening and whip for 2-3 minutes more.
- Divide the frosting into 3 sections- 1/2 Green, 1/4 White, 1/4 Red
- Decorating the cookies:
- Use tip # 5 pipe a line of green frosting around outside edge of cookie, flood cookie with green frosting. Let dry completely. Pipe decor on tree with remaining tip # 2 or 3.
Yield depends size and shape of tree cookie cutter.
Written By: Liz Bushong
Liz Bushong is an expert in the three-dimensional art of entertaining. She transforms simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments by adding a touch of her own “sassy style”. For the past several years Liz has been entrusted to decorate several high profile homes for the Holidays including the White House, Vice Presidential Personal Residence, Governors mansions and more. She is a featured monthly guest chef/designer on regional CBS/ABC Affiliates Daytime Tri-Cities, Daytime Blue-Ridge Roanoke and other television shows. Liz is the author of Just Desserts and Sweets & Savories cookbook as well as contributing writer for several magazines including VIP SEEN & Lovely Bella.
All recipes, food styling, photography and article are created and developed my Liz Bushong.
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