12 December

Egg Nog White Russian


December 24: National Egg Nog Day

Sip on a seasonal cocktail on Christmas Eve! Add a twist to the traditional White Russian by mixing in egg nog instead of cream or milk in a martini glass. Rim it with cinnamon-sugar for a festive flavor and top this delicious drink with a dollop of whipped cream for a snowy center. Egg Nog White Russian is perfect on National Egg Nog Day and the night before Christmas.


(Adapted from Spec’s)


  • Cinnamon-sugar (to rim martini glass)
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces coffee liqueur (we used Kona coffee liqueur)
  • 2 ounces egg nog
  • whipped cream
  • grated nutmeg


Rim the edge of a martini glass with cinnamon-sugar. Set aside. In a shaker, pour the vodka, coffee liqueur and egg nog. Shake well.


Pour into martini glass. Garnish with whipped cream and grated nutmeg (optional).



  • Try the recipe for Gelatina de Rompope (Mexican Egg Nog Gelatin) for a Christmas Eve dessert on National Egg Nog Day.

Winter Solstice Cocktail


December 21: Winter Solstice

‘Tis the season to toast the shortest day of the year with a Winter Solstice cocktail. The citrusy spirit is refreshing and it is fizzy and festive for holiday entertaining. Garnish this drink naturally with the Christmas colors of green and red (mint leaf and raspberry). Then bid farewell to fall and welcome winter with a Winter Solstice cocktail.


(Adapted from Martha Stewart)


  • 1 ½ ounces orange vodka (we used Clementine vodka)
  • ½ ounce orange-flavored liqueur (we used Triple Sec)
  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ice cubes
  • club soda, chilled
  • 1 mint leaf
  • raspberry


In a shaker, combine the orange vodka and orange-flavored liqueur, lemon juice and ice.


Shake well and pour into a highball or martini glass. Fill with club soda. Garnish with mint leaf and raspberry. Serve immediately.



  • Thanks to Cathy M. for giving us some Meyer lemons from her backyard for this cocktail recipe. She had an overabundance of fruit and they were huge and ripe this season.
  • In addition to or in lieu of the cocktail, celebrate the solstice with a wintery sweet soup, ginataan bilo-bilo, during the Dōng Zhì Festival.
  • Search our blog for other holiday beverages and recipes.

Oatmeal Raisin Banana Muffins

December 19: National Oatmeal Muffin Day

If you are dashing through the snow/sun or having a harried holiday, grab a quick and healthy snack—oatmeal raisin banana muffins—to give you some energy to get through the day’s errands, such as buying last-minute Christmas gifts. These muffins are also good to serve to guests with fresh fruit for a simply wholesome breakfast when they visit during winter break. So make some muffins with oatmeal for National Oatmeal Muffin Day.


(Adapted from Chiquita Bananas)

For the topping

  • ¼ cup rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick cooking)
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

For the oatmeal raisin banana muffins

  • 2 bananas, overripe and mashed
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick cooking)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup raisins


In a small bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon, brown sugar and melted butter. Mix until well combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl or mixer, mash the bananas with the egg. Stir in the buttermilk. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour and oats mixture.

Add the brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Stir in the pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon. Stir in the wet ingredients and mix until moistened. Fold in the raisins. Scoop the mixture into cupcake papers.

Sprinkle the topping on each muffin. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Serve warm. Store leftovers in an airtight container. Reheat if desired.


  • Make buttermilk at home by mixing 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice in a cup of milk. Let stand at room temperature until the milk curdles and thickens. Stir ¾ of this buttermilk mixture into the recipe and discard the rest.

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

December 14: National Biscuits and Gravy Day

May 14 marks National Buttermilk Biscuits Day. Seven months later, it’s National Biscuits and Gravy Day. When we make buttermilk biscuits, we usually eat them with butter or fruit spreads. This time we smothered them with a creamy white pork sausage gravy for a filling weekend breakfast/brunch. Buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy are popular where we live in Texas and is a quintessential Southern staple because of their down home deliciousness. Make them for breakfast or brunch and especially on National Biscuits and Gravy Day.


(Adapted from Food Network)

  • buttermilk biscuits (homemade or canned)
  • 1 pound pork sausage (we used Jimmy Dean brand regular sausage)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3+ cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste


While baking the buttermilk biscuits, crumble pork sausage into a skillet. Cook over medium high heat until the meat is no longer pink. Gradually mix in the flour. Lower the heat to medium low and pour in two cups of milk.

Keep stirring until thickened then add another cup of milk (at least five minutes). For a thinner gravy, pour another cup of milk and keep stirring. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warm buttermilk biscuits.


Coconut-Lime Matcha

Hangover Helper

December 2: Feast Day of St. Bibiana

Have a hangover from holiday partying? Then get inspired by the “Coconut” song and invoke St. Bibiana (Vivian), patron saint of hangovers, for a home remedy.

If you put de lime in de coconut water and mix it all up with matcha powder, it will help relieve a bellyache and headache. This hangover helper keeps you hydrated from the electrolytes in the coconut water and provides a little pain relief from the caffeine in the earthy-flavored green tea powder. Limes can also quell the queasiness and add vitamin C to stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Personally, we have no need to drink this hangover helper as we aren’t too into the bar scene. But as designated drivers at a few holiday parties, we could offer this coconut-lime matcha hangover helper to those who have imbibed a little too much. Or you can also sip on this healthy concoction on the morning of the Feast Day of St. Bibiana for a natural boost of energy! Cheers!


(Adapted from Shape magazine)


  • 1 cup coconut water, chilled
  • pinch of sea salt (we used Hawaiian sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon matcha (green tea powder)
  • spritz of lime juice from a slice or wedge (also optional garnish)


In a small glass, pour the coconut water. Add a pinch of sea salt. Mix in the matcha. Spritz a little lime juice and stir. Garnish with a lime slice or wedge.


  • St. Bibiana died as a martyr (4th century) for her steadfast Christian faith. According to some legends, she was forced to drink liquid lead as part of her torture. After she was buried, healing herbs grew from her gravesite and were known to cure headaches, epilepsy and even hangovers! (We highly doubt that the healing herb was matcha since tea bushes were not grown in Rome.)
  • Take care during the holidays and don’t drink and drive!

Ginataan Bilo-Bilo


December 22: Winter Solstice

As the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, keep warm on the Winter Solstice with a sweet Asian soup consisting of small sticky rice balls. In China, during the Dōng Zhì Festival, the clear soup is called tangyuan—the rice balls may be plain or stuffed with a sweet bean, black sesame or peanut paste. The Filipinos have a similar sweet soup, ginataan bilo-bilo—the rice balls are stewed in a sweetened coconut milk mixture. Other Asian countries have their own versions of a sweet sticky rice ball soup (for example, Thai bua loi is similar to ginataan bilo-bilo). The round shape is auspicious and also symbolizes families gathering ‘round the holidays—as in “coming together full circle”.

Islander’s Mommy used to make ginataan bilo-bilo as a snack for the family when it was cooler weather in Hawaii (brrrr…low ‘70s!). Because it is labor intensive to roll the sticky rice balls, it represents a heart-warming food for all of us as well. Sometimes, tubers such as taro, sweet potato or ube (purple yam), are added to the soup to make it heartier. Because as kids, Islander and her brother called this dish “snowballs” due to its milky-white color, she prefers to add white taro to keep its wintery color (ube gives the dish a vibrant violet hue).

Welcome winter with a warm bowl of ginataan bilo-bilo and enjoy this dish through the holidays and the coming new year.


Adapted from Mommy

For the mochi balls

  • 1 lb. (1 box) mochiko (sweet rice) flour
  • water
  • flour


In a large bowl, put the mochiko and make a well. Gradually add water a few drops at a time. Stir until the dough sticks together.


On a clean, floured surface, roll a palm-size ball of dough into a long strip around ¾-inch thick. Slice into ¾-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place the balls on a flat container filled with flour to prevent the dough balls from sticking. While the dough balls rest, make the sweet stew.


For the sweet stew

  • 1 cup cooked large tapioca pearls (or mini tapioca, if desired)
  • 1 cup yam/taro/sweet potato, peeled and sliced into bite-sized chunks, par-boiled (semi-cooked)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 can jackfruit slices (reserve ¼ cup liquid syrup from the can to sweeten and flavor the stew—optional); cut into smaller strips
  • 1-2 sweet plantain bananas, peeled and sliced into 1 inch chunks
  • ¼ teaspoon anise seed


Cook the tapioca according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse. Set aside. Slice the yam/taro/sweet potato. Parboil, drain and set aside.


In a large pot, stir the coconut milk with water. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat as to not scald the coconut milk. Remove each mochiko ball from the flour and add to the milk mixture. Gently stir to prevent the balls from sticking to each other. Simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes or until the balls float slightly to the top. Add the sugar (and jackfruit syrup, if extra flavoring is desired).


Add the cooked tapioca pearls and stir to separate them. Sprinkle the anise seed. Stir in the jackfruit slices.


Add the plantain banana slices and taro/yam/sweet potato. Serve warm so the balls are still chewy and not hard. Store in an airtight container. If serving leftovers, ladle into soup/dessert bowls and add a little water to liquefy the stew. Microwave for a minute or two until the mochiko balls have softened.



  • Depending on the location and lunar calendar, the Winter Solstice date can fall between December 21-23.
  • Thanks to Mommy, Daddy, Auntie Letty and Auntie Finey for making the rice balls for this blog post recipe when they visited us in Texas from Hawaii and the Philippines.
  • Frozen sticky rice balls may be found in Asian grocery stores and could be used as a shortcut to the homemade version. Make sure the balls are cooked through so they are soft and chewy instead of hard and flour-y.
  • If using ube (purple yam), there will be a violet tint to the sweet stew.
  • The addition of round tapioca pearls increase the luck factor and provide more chewy textures to ginataan bilo-bilo (and bua loi), making this dish appropriate for new year’s celebrations as well.


Calamansi Cupcakes


December 15: National Cupcake Day

Highlander’s co-worker, Luchie A., has invited us to her house in the Gulf Coast of Texas to pick calamansi from the tree in her backyard. We have gathered grocery bags full of the fruit for ourselves and for friends. We typically squeeze all the little Philippine limes to make delicious fresh squeezed fruit juice. We also reserve a bit of the liquid to make calamansi cupcakes for Luchie and the other co-workers. The cupcakes are always a big hit with everyone in Highlander’s office.

National Cupcake Day occurs during the holiday season when cookies are frequently exchanged. But cupcakes are a sweet choice to share, too. If calamansi juice is available, use it to make this terrific and tart treat.


For the calamansi cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup calamansi juice, fresh squeezed or bottled/boxed/canned
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder


In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the vanilla.


Pour in the calamansi juice. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add this mixture gradually to the other ingredients. Blend until the batter is smooth (it will be thick).


Scoop into cupcake papers and place in muffin tins. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting the calamansi cupcakes.


For the calamansi buttercream frosting

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2+ tablespoons calamansi juice


In a large bowl, cream the butter with the vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Thin to a spreadable consistency with the calamansi juice. Use Wilton tip 1M in a piping bag and decorate the top of each cupcake with swirls.



  • Squeeze more juice from many calamansi fruits for a refreshingly tart drink. See our easy recipe for calamansi juice for National Fresh Squeezed Juice Day on January 15.
  • Maraming salamat (thank you very much in Pilipino/Tagalog) to Luchie A. for the calamansi!


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