Entertaining Holidays – December 2021

EntertainingsliderTime Out

Christmas Ambience • Easiest Christmas Cookie House • Anti Stress Smoothie •
Parmesan Cheese Straws


by Mary Canovas


  Last Christmas Crazy Frog

Before we start with our recipes, let´s get in the mood.  Christmas is not only material things, it´s also a feeling of warmth, home, loved ones, togetherness and tradition.

Entertaining is also about setting the mood or ambiance of our home.  One of the best ways I know, aside from the decorations, is TV and computer screens filled with Christmas scenes, fireplaces, with or without music. These videos, which can last from 1 to 8 hours, project your view of a perfect setting for the holidays:  A cabin in the woods with snow falling – Christmas tree and fireplace included, a Harry Potter Christmas, a palace, library or coffee house setting with soothing jazz, Treehouses or New York lofts even Christmas fireplaces with dogs or cats. There are dozens of these videos you can find on YouTube. Try them out and pick your favorites to accompany you during the holiday.  Here are a few:

•   Christmas Fireplace Tree & Snow Daytime – No Music

•  Classic Popular Christmas Music with a Fireplace- Andy Williams, Mariah, Sinatra, Nat King Cole, John Williams and more

Harry Potter Ambience – No Music




Ever tried making a gingerbread cookie house? Even for experienced bakers, it´s not that easy. After getting the recipe just right, all the measuring, cutting (when you are lucky enough not to wind up with a cookie crumble instead of a roof) etc. you can finally get on to the fun part – decorating.

Our cookie houses eliminate all the preliminaries and get to the fun part by using store bought cookies.  You can make incredible houses and decorations so easily and just enjoy decorating your own version of a Christmas cookie house or village. Make it a family affair and create memories for future generations.

The recipe is about the icing.  Our video will show you how to assemble everything.  Make sure to have plenty of candies and cookies and lots of paper towels for a massive cleanup after the kids.

You will need:

  • Rectangular cookies – your favorite brand
  • Candies and goodies – gummy bears, hard candies, licorice sticks, M&Ms, nuts, pretzel sticks …
  • We recommend Royal Icing for best results, or Easy Icing in a pinch.


Royal Icing: Traditional and Recommended


  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups -375 gr. sifted icing or confectioner´s sugar
  • Optional: extract vanilla, lemon, orange, coconut, etc.


  • Beat egg whites with lemon juice until they foam up.
  • Add 1 cup of sugar and beat at medium speed.
  • Add another cup of sugar and beat on high speed.
  • Add the rest by tablespoons until the desired consistency is achieved.

NOTE:  Royal icing shouldn´t drip down from the spoon.  If it is too thick, add a few drops of water.  If it is too liquid add more icing sugar.

  • Icing should be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container because it hardens when exposed to air.
  • Cover with plastic wrap when not in use and store in the refrigerator.
  • To use put icing in a plastic bag and make a small cut on one edge or use a piping bag with a small tip.

Easy Icing

  • 1 cup confectioner´s sugar
  • 1 or more tablespoon milk

Directions: Stir until reaching desired consistency.

Directions for Cookie Houses:  Follow the video.



Most of us look forward to these holidays, full of light, traditions,  get-togethers – wonderful and at times hectic and stressful. There are many ways to combat holiday stress: meditation (if you have the time), exercise (unless you´re too maxed out with cooking, shopping, wrapping and decorating) or leaving for a Christmas vacation to Hawaii. One simple help is our Anti – Stress smoothie.  Just one a day should keep the shrink away (hopefully).  Okay, that was a joke, but this smoothie actually does help. It is also so delicious that it will put a smile on your face and tummy and more importantly on your frazzled nerves.

Our Anti-Stress Smoothie is chock full of natural ingredients that help fight the effects of stress and anxiety both physically and mentally.    Our smoothie integrates a wide range of natural ingredients that have many beneficial effects including helping with stress and anxiety.

  • walnut – selenium- reduces the inflammation that accompanies anxiety symptoms
  • banana – potassium – helps reduce anxiety symptoms
  • cocoa – tryptophan and magnesium  – increases serotonin  helping to relieve physical and mental fatigue
  • yogurt – healthy bacteria – increase immunity
  • honey – anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic and antidepressant effects


  • 240 ml – 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 1 level tablespoon pure cocoa powder (not Nesquik)
  • 1 Banana or medium ripe banana
  • 1 walnut and a half
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons honey


  • Put all the ingredients in the blender and process until everything is blended.
  • Use: 1 smoothie a day.



Parmesan Cheese Straws are a must on every table, holidays or daily. And you can´t find them in any store.  With only 2 basic ingredients, they are tasty, inexpensive and not difficult to make. Great to accompany any meal, as appetizers or for dipping into your favorite marinara sauce.


  • 1 package of puff pastry, preferably butter
  • 1 large egg + 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
  • 1/4 cup – 30 g grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon oregano or other herb


  • Stir salt, cheese, paprika, garlic and optional oregano together in a bowl.
  • Place a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured table.
  • Very lightly flour both sides of the puff pastry.
  • Roll out the pastry so it is even. See video
  • Make an egg wash: Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Brush a thin layer of egg wash on one side of the puff pastry.
  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF – 200ºc.
  • Sprinkle the cheese mixture on the middle half of the surface. See video.
  • Fold the opposite side without the cheese over the cheese mix side.
  • With a rolling pin, press gently. Make sure the cheese mix is well within the layers of the puff pastry so the cheese doesn´t spill out when baked.
  • Gently press all the dough with your fingers. – watch video
  • Cut ½” or 1 cm strips. You can also make it wider. Make sure they are all the same size.
  • Place the strips on parchment /oven paper or Silpat covered baking tray.
  • Take each strip by the ends and turn in opposite directions.
  • Once they are twisted, press down on both ends with your fingers.
  • Once prepared, place the tray in the refrigerator for 15 minutes (never freezer) before baking. It is important that the straws are cold when they are baked.
  • Bake in the center of the preheated oven at 200ºC or 400ºF for 10 to 14 minutes or until the straws are golden brown and well done. Depending on the oven, rotate the tray halfway through baking if necessary.
  • Cool the cheese straws on a wire rack.


Images from Pixabay
Featured image/Jill Wellington
Frog/Hans Braxmeier