Category Archives: Kids learn to Cook

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.
Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

Yum! Mothers’ Day Lunch.

This year, we decided to keep Mothers’ Day simple and have lunch at home. After all, when you have a couple of budding mini chefs in-house, you don’t need to outsource.

On Friday night, we saw a recipe for French Croissant Toast on The Living Room and decided to run with it. Here’s the recipe and the cooks.

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Happy Mothers’ Day…a croissant smile.

The kids had some very enthusiastic helpers in the kitchen.

And even at the table…

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A Lady at the table…Naturally, I didn’t take this photo. It must’ve been Bilbo!

What a yummy lunch…and the day isn’t over yet!

Wishing you all a very Happy Mothers’ Day, whatever that means to you!

xx Rowena

Masterchef: Julie Goodwin’s, Essential Cookbook.

As I’ve mentioned often enough, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s 1st Masterchef, made a surprise visit to our home on Monday to drop off a meal and a copy of her latest cookbook, Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook.

So, I thought you might like to join me as I flick through the cookbook and choose something to cook. After all, she didn’t just give it to me  to be nice. Or, to be framed and sent “straight to the pool room”. It was to be used.

Used and even abused.

Indeed, Julie gave me carte blanche to all but destroy the book during the cooking process. Apparently, she loves to see a well-used book,which could well have sampled a few meals itself. For better or worse, my personal cooking style was inspired by the Swedish chef from the Muppet Show back in the 80s. So, this poor book could well be in for a smorgasbord of splattered delight…

Although Julie needs little introduction here in Australia, I thought I’d better introduce her to those further afield.

Julie Goodwin is many things.Every morning when I listen to Julie on the radio, I’m struck by her infectious laugh which jolts me out of the morning’s challenges. Julie has a real depth and sincerity, and I know I’ve only glimpsed the edges of that. Right from her first appearances on Masterchef, she’s worn her heart on her sleeve. Her love of her family and being their Mum, radiate from her heart. You can tell how much she loves and cares for people, and that cooking and food is all part of that. There is no divide. So many of us who cook for our families, feel the same. That there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal. It’s infused with love.

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So when Julie gave me her cookbook, she was also sharing the joy of cooking and sitting around a table laden with scrumptious offerings laughing and chatting with family and friends. Cooking and eating great meals, are joys to be shared, and not to be kept to yourself…top secret.

In her introduction, Julie explains why she put this cookbook together:

“The point I find myself at at the moment is as the parent of three boys who are new adults. They are all still at home right now but I guess the clock is ticking, and although I have taught them what cooking knowledge I could over the years I feel an almost desperate need to get all the important recipes, information and tips together so that when they go, they’re set.

That’s what this book is for. It’s a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to be able to nourish yourself and the people you love; it’s the recipes that bring back childhood memories for myself and my kids;it’s the little bits of kitchen wisdom that have been handed down through generations, or passed on from friends, or discovered by accident or through trial and error. It’s the book I want my books to have when they have families of their own.”

My Mother-in-law did the same thing for Geoff when he moved out of home and we still have a much treasured cookbook she put together for him in an exercise book. I also have detailed recipes my grandmother sent my Mum. One even included a snippet about the birth of a friend’s baby. I have cooked with my own kids both as a bonding experience and to teach them practical life skills. It actually takes quite a lot of smarts to put together a great meal.

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So, after enjoying  Julie’s Butter Chicken on Monday night (thank you Julie!!), I decided to cook something from her cookbook on Tuesday night.

Something…

With 300 pages of recipes to choose from and possibly two recipes per page, I was bamboozled by choice.

Where to start?

Of course, my sweet tooth went straight to Baking and Desserts. I’m already making plans to bake her Flourless Chocolate Cake on page 250. Actually, I just spotted a recipe for Chocolate Fondant on page 287. I’ve been wanting to try making one of those for years, along with tiramisu, but have never had the guts. Not because I can’t cook. Rather, it’s the paralyzing perfectionist in me. That stupid fear of making a mistake, which stops me from lifting my wooden spoon. Indeed, I use it to beat myself up instead.

Well, it doesn’t stop me entirely. I obviously have to feed the family and every year when Masterchef starts up, my home cooking goes up a zillion notches. The other day, for example, I made pan fried perch with lemon and raspberry, a dash of honey and sprinkled with macadamia nuts…just something I threw together.

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Hasselback Potato.

So, rather than being ambitious, I started with something simple…Hasselback Potatoes on page 192. Actually, with my fine motor challenges, these potatoes, which have horizontal slices 2 mm apart, could’ve been more challenging than the fondant. However, aside from chopping off a few pieces, all went well. I poured the mix of melted butter and oil over the potatoes and threw them in the oven. They emerged with a scrumptious crunchy crust, but soft in the middle.

Wow! Those potatoes were so good. We ate them as finger food like a row of scalloped, potato chips.

Indeed, we loved them so much, I swapped them for our usual roast potatoes. I’m doing a roast lamb tonight. Sorry, Julie, I went AWOL on the roast and did my own thing.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the footage of Julie and Rabbit’s visit to our place, you can see it here: Rabbit & Julie Goodwin Visit Rowena

If you would like to try some of Julie’s recipes or purchase her cookbook, please visit her web site: Julie Goodwin

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to MY big day tomorrow and arrival of the fairies during the night.

xx Rowena

PS I thought you all might also want to check out Rabbit’s new cookbook as well in these very entertaining clips. As much as I love Rabbit and did pass on one of my own recipes, I am concerned he’s trying a bit too hard: Rabbit Tells Julie about his cookbook on air and Rabbit & Julie:The Battle of the Cookbook Signings

Breakfast With Rabbit & Julie

This morning Mum’s Taxi was on a mission. Dare I say, it was on a quest of epic proportions.

You see, our local radio station, Star FM, was broadcasting from my daughter’s school and we I was going to meet the hosts, Rabbit and Julie.

Sorry, Rabbit. As much as I love you and I truly thrive on the banter between you and Julie every morning, I was there to see Julie.

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“Yoo hoo! Julie! Rabbit! Look at me!”

I know that being a crazed, obsessed fan can be frowned upon. It’s not like the good old days when Davy Jones kissed Marcia Brady and she swooned: “I’ll never wash this cheek again.” Even if we laughed, we understood and such undying adoration wasn’t considered “odd”. These days, this kind of uber-fanaticism can land you in jail. Or, at best, you’re at the top of the suspect list if anything ever happens to your star…your guiding light.

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At least I didn’t  go to these lengths to get Julie’s attention. (The breakfast was supported by Poppy’s Pretzels…a great prop.)

However, at times, my enthusiasm gets the better of me, overtaking all restraint, decorum and anything approaching “cool”. Although I didn’t call out: “Yoo-hoo, Julie?!! It’s me!!!” while they were on air, I was a bit OTT (over the top).  As my daughter would attest, I am THE embarrassing Mum, but hopefully in a warm, infectious kind of way. At least, I hope that’s how my manic desperation to meet Julie Goodwin came across this morning.

You see, Julie and I go way back.

I first “met” Julie back in 2009 when she won the very first Masterchef Australia. It might have been eight years ago, but I still remember hanging out for the results. It was almost like waiting to hear who was going to host   the 2000 Olympic Games: “The winner is…”

What I liked about Julie back then, was just how unashamedly real she was and how she oozed personal warmth and love. Although, despite my best intentions, I’ve only used her cookbook a couple of times, I’ve felt her beside me through the last eight years, while I’ve been cooking meals for my family. Moreover, I’ve also talked to her in my head, when the kids’ their meals went untouched and she helped dull the rejection.

This is a form of rejection nobody prepares you for as a parent, and it’s very difficult not to take it to heart. Of course, your child isn’t simply rejecting their meal. They’re also rejecting your love. After all, we all know that a good dose of love goes into everything cooked at home.

Food rejection was and remains a serious issue with our kids. While the rest of the known universe is focused on reducing childhood obesity, my kids have been non-eaters. People would reassure me and say: “I’ve never seen a child starve to death”, but they weren’t the ones with a child struggling to stay in the 10th percentile for weight and about to pass out after school…and still not eating!

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I thought Rabbit & Julie might want to try one of my daughter’s glow in the dark birthday cookies. Then again…

As time went by, we found out our son was lactose intolerant and our daughter has gastroparesis. This slows her digestion and she doesn’t get so hungry and gets a lot of stomach pains. I also found out that both my kids are sensitive to food textures. They don’t like mushrooms as they’re slimy and don’t like “bits” in their food like sultanas either. I hadn’t really thought so much about the texture of food before, but I do now.

Back in those days when I had no idea what was going on, I thought about writing to sales guru Anthony Robbins, who could sell ice to Eskimos. See if he could get my kids to eat. Find out how he’d respond when: “Choo! Choo! Choo! Here comes the train!” doesn’t work. I truly wondered whether my kids would be his undoing. The only humans Tony Robbins hasn’t been able to budge.

Being a parent can get very lonely, especially when you’re battling something weird and unexplained. When other children need to lose weight but yours won’t gain, it does throw you. Moreover, with skinny being associated with beauty, its associated health problems can fly under the radar. At least, that’s until you hit the teenage years.

So through all of this, I’ve fiddled with food. Tried new recipes and I’ve even been teaching the kids how to cook for some time.

Julie Goodwin has been there beside me through all of that, patiently listening as I ramble away in my head or even have a full-on rant. And you know what, Julie never complains or criticizes. Indeed, there’s only been one downside…Julie’s never turned up at my door with a meal!

By the way, I should also throw in that while my kids weren’t eating, I was chronically ill and at times, fighting for my life. Through many of those years, being able to cook for my family was a luxury and nothing was taken for granted. Indeed, friends and people from Church helped us out with meals and so much more. So, the fact I was struggling to prepare the meals the kids refused to eat, really did add fuel to the fire…”Not happy, Jan!!”

When you’re living with chronic illness day in day out, those voices on the radio can provide some kind of salvation. I might not have had the energy to go out for a chat and catch up with friends, but I could listen to Rabbit and Julie.

By the way, there’s another little detail I wanted to share. If you were sitting in the back seat of my taxi, you’d hear that Julie and I have a very similar, beautiful yet unrestrained laugh. Our laughter ping  pongs back and forth at each other in my car, and I’m quite surprised the roof hasn’t blown off. You could say we don’t have the quietest laugh and when you times it by two, I’d say it’s infectious but others might day something else if you could hear them over the din.

Every morning, this laughter is life changing and the best exercise or therapy anyone would ask for. So, I thank Rabbit and Julie for that.

Moreover, I’ll just footnote that by saying that you never know how you might be impacting someone’s life and how easy it might be, to be that difference.

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It also says to me that if you are having a tough time or have simply been overwhelmed by the black dog, do something to help yourself feel better. Find someone, something which will help you laugh even if it is only for a few minutes while you’re driving along. Turn your radio on.

After all, a huge life lesson for me has been that it’s not just what happens to you, but how you choose to respond. That might not make immediate sense and you might find yourself saying but you don’t know what I’ve been through. You might even start going through “your list”. Well, I’d be recommending you throw that list out and start a new one… “The how am I going to get myself out of here list”.

It will be very empowering and the victim will become victorious!

Bring it on!

Is there somebody who brings a sparkle to your day? Please share!

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 26th February, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Quite frankly, I think the dog’s got the right idea. He’s lying on the floor beside me with his paws twitching in the air, evidently having a wonderful dream. I spoilt his other half yesterday. I spotted a very posh dog leash at the charity shop…a string of pearls with gold bling. Lady would look quite the part if she wasn’t such a scruffian and I hope she doesn’t roll around in dead stench while strutting her stuff.

We’ve had a big week.

Friday, as my daughter’s birthday. While we’ve put off her party until after “the test”, we still had festivities. It’s customary here for kids to take cupcakes in for their birthdays for the class. My daughter had found these uber-colourful rainbow cookies called “Unicorn Poop” on YouTube.  While seriously aghast at the “intense” colours and all that entailed, I was also concerned with her trying to make an American recipe for the first time for a special occasion. My mother hasn’t given me heaps of baking advice that I’ve taken to heart. However, she says you never make something for the first time for something special. I thought this advice went double when the recipe was in “American” and we had to translate the lingo and measurements. We opted instead for an English variation. With the end product looking like very pretty rocks, I not so subtly suggested she also makes cupcakes. Turned out that the biscuits weren’t as hard as they looked. She meticulously and artistically iced and decorated them and had a hit.

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Happy Birthday, Miss!

Last night, my parents came over and we all went out for dinner. It was the first time my Mum’s come over since her back went out last year and it was so good to see them up here. While we went out for dinner, we came back here for rainbow birthday cake and we shared some of our Tasmanian treats with them. That was so much fun and very yum!

Quite aside from my daughter’s birthday, much of my head space and time has been taken up with getting her prepared for the selective schools’ test, which will be held 9th March…only about 10 days away. Our daughter is in a selective primary school class and just from the perspective of staying with her friends, the test is at the very least an issue. I don’t believe in hot-housing kids and yet there’s that pressure, that anxiety, that not knowing. Believe me. It’s tempting to get all caught up in the panic/fear and throw all “distractions” aside and treat my daughter as a widget passing along an assembly line. So what about nurturing and developing the whole child?

I am hoping that we’ve trod the middle ground  and have done enough while staying somewhat sane. She’s been doing a bit of tutoring and some work at home but has still kept up with her dance and violin.

Strangely, the rest of the known world is not revolving around “the test”. Our State MP developed serious cancer and had to resign. This means we have a local by-election. I have to admit that I wasn’t enthralled with all the hoopla that entails, especially as we’re a marginal seat and experience what could best be described as an “Election Blitz”. You can share my shot at humour  here: Oh no! Not Another Election!

You know how hard it can be keeping the blog up with real life. Well, before writing about my frustrations with the political process, I’d actually found out that a friend and much valued role model, Liesl Tesch, is running as the local Labor Party candidate. That was quite a surprise and quite a thrill. Liesl is a Paralympic gold medalist and like me, juggles disability with movement and she showed me how you can use equipment as an enabler. Liesl teaches at our local High School and rides her bicycle to work but uses a wheelchair during the day and then cycles home. I first met her as the guest speaker at the International Women’s Day March and she was wheeling along the main street in her chair. However, when I next met her talking to our scout troop, she was standing and on her feet. That was good for me to see, because there are times when I could use a wheelchair to boost my accessibility and yet I’ve only done it once attending the Sydney Opera House.

I attended Liesl’s campaign launch on Friday morning. That was an eye-opener as it was more of a press conference. It felt quite strange seeing the political juggernaut back in town and I’ll leave it at that.

Meanwhile, I’m still following up from our trip to Tasmania. I don’t know whether I mentioned that I’ve told Geoff that he’s related to all of North Tasmania. He disagreed with me and it’s become a bit of a running joke. However, I’ve worked out that James Newton the convict I’ve been researching, had around 30 grandchildren and I’ve recognized quite a few names from the trip. It seems the degrees of separation get pretty tight down there historically speaking. Yet, many descendants have moved to the Mainland. So, it seems they could be infiltrating our ranks.

Well, on that note, I’ll head off.

I just realized that I’ve been a dreadful host and haven’t offered you anything to eat or drink and haven’t even asked how you’ve been or what you’ve been up to. My sincere apologies and I really didn’t mean to yawn at you then either. It looks like I’ve become so chilled today, that I’ve almost passed out.

So, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a good one.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share and you can click here for the link-up.

xx Rowena

Rainbow Crumbs with Dog Hair & Chocolate Storm.

You try having a foot spa with a cup of tea and slice of cake without the famished, fur-shedding Border Collie all but eating the cake off your plate. You can see from the photo that Bilbo’s left significant DNA evidence behind. Yes, he was most definitely at the scene of the crime. Except, I beat him to it!

xx Rowena

The Meaning of Christmas Cake.

Last night, I was making my Christmas Cake.

In case you’re not familiar with what we Australians know as “Christmas Cake”, it’s a boiled fruit cake crammed with sultanas, currants, raisins and prunes soaked and boiled in sherry. The next day, glace cherries and almonds are added to the mix, along with the usual cakey ingredients. It’s very much a British tradition, which has immigrated along with the settlers to the Antipodes.

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Our Lego Santa Loves Christmas Cake.

There are so many steps to making a Christmas cake, each almost being an essential pre-Christmas ritual. So, let’s get started.

The first step is to boil up the dried fruit with the sherry, lemon and orange juice on the stove. If you have never experienced this smell, you are really missing out. As I hunch over the hot stove stirring the fruits with my wooden spoon, all those smells tantalize my senses, heralding Christmas. Indeed, I’d swear my nose was even twitching. Wow! It smells amazingly good!

Then, you leave those fruits in the fridge overnight to stew.

In this era of instant everything, it almost feels unnatural to wait for anything. Yet, this waiting process seems quite appropriate for a Christmas cake. After all, so much about Christmas involves waiting…How many sleeps? Where’s Santa? What am I getting for Christmas?

So, the Christmas Cake is simply being in synch with the rest of Christmas with all its waiting and delays.

The next day, we move onto the baking phase.

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Our son sampling the mixture, aged 3.

This starts out with the ceremonial beating of the butter and brown sugar, watching them spin round and round in my Sunbeam mix master. They’re like two people falling in love and becoming one flesh, as they dance round and round the beaters creaming together. That’s when fingers and spoons invade the bowl for mandatory testing. You’d be surprised how things can go wrong in the beating process, and how multiple tastings are required… just to be sure!

Then, you add the eggs. Even if you deplore Christmas Cake, I guarantee you’ll be licking the spoon once you taste brown sugar, butter and eggs creamed together. Not only do they taste delicious, but they have such a smooth, creamy texture which truly dazzles your taste buds. Yum!

More mixture disappears.

And a bit more!

There’s still plenty left.

Then, even a bit more mixture disappears onto a passing spoon.

Time to add the flour and spices before there’s no mixture left!

Next, I throw in the halved glace cherries and slivered almonds and it’s into the tin. More slivered almonds are sprinkled on top, and the Christmas Cake has finally made it into the oven.

Strange how there’s still so much mixture left behind!

Of course, some of that has been put aside for the mini Christmas cakes I make for my Dad. Dad has a pathological aversion to cinnamon so I always make him his own. My Dad looks very much like John Cleese playing Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. So, it’s a wise move to keep him happy, as we don’t have Manuel on hand to keep him in check.

However, it also seems like such a waste to cook all of that scrummy mixture, especially when it’s only going to become Christmas Cake.

Funny that I could ever deride the sacred Christmas Cake!

How soon I forget! Three years ago, I had a round of chemo to treat my auto-immune disease starting the week before Christmas. Indeed, I literally was singing: “all I wanted for Christmas is chemo” in my head that year. After all, without the chemo, I wouldn’t be here now. So, despite its hardships, it was more of a celebration than an ordeal.

This is where the Christmas Cake enters the story. I had three days’ notice before chemo began and do you know what I did in that time? I made my Christmas Cake and I posted my Christmas cards. That’s what was important…along with my family.

I had to remind myself of that this year. Now that the pressure’s off and my health has vastly improved, making the Christmas Cake wasn’t quite happening. Indeed, I only made it last night with 6 sleeps to go. I was really struggling to get myself moving!

That’s also because I’m not a huge lover of fruit cake. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Christmas, I’d never make any kind of fruit cake. I much prefer chocolate cake and have been known to mix the boiled fruits in with a chocolate cake mix before. That was yum! The boiled fruits also mix in well with ice cream. Indeed, the boiled fruits can be very versatile, if you’re willing to let go of tradition heading into the great unknown.

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Photographed with Santa aged 6. Unfortunately, the photo needs a spruce up.

I’m not quite there yet. I still need a slice of Christmas Cake with my cup of tea and my parents particularly love this Christmas Cake. After all, I make my mother’s recipe, which she adopted from her university friend Deirdre. They go back a long way and so does this Christmas Cake. I’ve been eating it for something like 47 years now. It’s a keeper and I hope my kids continue to  make it wherever they are and whatever their world is like when they grow up. Who knows where they’ll be in 47 years? Yet, like any parent, I just want them to be happy (which is often the most elusive “achievement” of all!)

You can find the recipe and a previous post about the Christmas Cake here.

You might also enjoy reading about Christmas Cakes: here. I found it a very interesting read.

Do you have any Christmas baking traditions? If so, I’d love to hear all about them and feel free to share your recipes.

Love & Christmas Blessings,

Rowena