We had a delightful, relaxing Christmas holiday spent with my sister Mandy. There was lots of good food, a bracing walking of the dog, the viewing of several films, and good conversation. Before I get to the wonderful food, I thought I would also share the results of the first Crazy Mug competition which I am hoping will be a family tradition for years to come.
I had the idea to get our family involved in a little Yuletide fun by scouring yard sales, thrift shops and other outlets for the craziest, zaniest coffee mugs one could find. I was inspired early this year by the bizarre clown mug you see below, and thought it would be a fun scavenger hunt for us to engage in and make part of our holiday festivities. (Plus the activity fit in with our "It's a Recessionary Christmas" theme this year.) We already have lots of fun with the humorous gift tags that we put on our Christmas presents (they provide clues to the gift within or are purportedly from different gift-givers in our lives) and I thought this would add to the merriment.
Well, only Dan and I and Daughter #1 were imbued with the Crazy Mug Spirit, but we still got a kick out of the unveiling of the mugs. Below you see the Crazy Mug entries.
The Penguin mug was actually judged to be rather cute, and we feel we could even use it to drink from, so that was quickly out of contention.
In any other year I think my strange Crazy Mug entry, featuring a badly-drawn, roller-skating clown peeping backwards through his well-defined buttocks would have been judged the winner....
But this was quickly eclipsed by Dan's winning entry, "Smashed Again". Dan had purveyed the glassware shelves of many a thrift shop and actually came up with the winning Crazy Mug at an antiques shop where the owner gave him the mug for free because the tail was broken off of the creepily anthropomorphic mouse figure attached to the handle. Mr. Mouse is staring down at a flattened mouse friend at the bottom of the mug.
This mug is so Crazy on so many levels. Why "smashed again" on a mug? Doesn't one drink booze out of a glass ordinarily? And how does one clean this twisted bit of pottery? And who wants to drink out of something that has a dead mouse in it, real mouse or not? No matter, Dan has won the first Annual Crazy Mug Christmas Contest and I am already looking forward to creating a trophy for next year's event.
Onto the Christmas Food! We had some mulled cider, cheese and crackers, a vegetable platter and dip and a first course salad, Pepperonata with Goat Cheese Truffles, which I had tried in an earlier post. With the addition of some red pepper poinsettias (I had a small flower cookie cutter on hand for that trick) and substituting spinach for the blanched arugula in the original recipe, this was a festive red and green starter for us. I also rolled smaller goat cheese truffles, and rolled the green ones in snipped parsley. Perfetto!
Then there were two trays of lasagna, one meaty and wheaty for my carnivorous crew and one tray of Mushroom, Artichoke and Spinach Lasagna made with rice noodles for the vegetarian, gluten-free crowd. The Christmas feasting concluded with a rich Irish Cream Cheesecake. My cousin-in-law's wonderful wife Diane had once made us such a delight one holiday season and Dan had very fond memories of it, so I dug out the recipe she had given me and figured out a gluten-free crust to replace her graham cracker version and this proved to be a delicious and successful experiment.
I double checked various celiac sites to make sure the Irish Cream liqueur is gluten-free (the consensus is that distilled spirits are gluten-free, even if they start out with glutenous grains). I used Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur but am intrigued by other recipes for making homemade Irish Cream liqueur, like this one. I started this cheesecake the day before, by making and chilling the crust and then baked the cake early on Christmas morning because it takes a long while to cool after baking.
Gluten-Free Irish Cream Cheesecake
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1-1/2 cups Honey-Nut Chex cereal
1-1/4 cups finely chopped walnuts
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup Irish Cream liqueur
1 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. white chocolate, grated on box grater (save a handful for garnish)
1-1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with softened butter. Set aside.
Place Honey Nut Chex in zipped plastic bag. Smash with rolling pin until you get fine crumbs. One could also do this in a food processor. Mix crumbs thoroughly with melted butter and chopped nuts. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the buttered springform pan. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour to let harden.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Beat softened cream cheese with mixer until fluffy. Add in sugar and mix well. Add eggs, Irish Cream liqueur and vanilla. Mix well. Mix in grated white chocolate and mix well.
Pour into prepared crust. Bake 60 minutes or until the edges of the cheesecake are puffed up and dry looking and the center is set.
Cool on rack.
When cheesecake is thoroughly cooled, top with a mixture of the sour cream and confectioner's sugar. Spread topping smoothly and garnish with reserved grated white chocolate. (Don't garnish with Turbinado or other sugar crystals as we did because they will dissolve and make the top of the cheesecake strangely wet, causing the dessert chef some concern and involving much blotting with paper napkins before serving).
Wrap cheesecake with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 6 hours before serving.
Makes 10-12 very rich dessert servings.
With many happy wishes to my Crispy Cook readers and blogger buddies for a delightful rest of the year and for a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year!