When I was little my mom always used to get us those cardboard advent calendars with the elaborate Christmas scene and little hidden numbered doors. And behind each door was a tiny, perfect, and oddly shiny little chocolate shape. And of course she got two so my brother and I wouldn’t argue over whose turn it was to open the door that day. I LOVED those advent calendars. I mean, I am a complete chocoholic so really that’s no surprise. But actually the chocolate in them wasn’t even all that good, it was more the excitement over opening the tiny door and getting closer to Christmas.
But of course, for us, because of O’s peanut/tree nut allergy, tiny chocolates are out. So last year I decided I should make an advent calendar. Something that he could remember having fun with as he grows up. I started out thinking about this amazing advent calendar that one of my best friends had growing up. Her mom is an amazing quilter. Like, she’s not just a hobbyist, she really knows what she’s doing. I should show you the quilt she made for O when he was born sometime–totally amazing! But anyway, at some point when my friend, or one of her siblings, was young, her mom made this felt advent calendar that had a felt christmas tree and 24 little pockets and inside each little pocket was a different tiny felt ornament. It was so cool!
So I started out thinking I would make something similar. But of course I decided this on like November 29th so I didn’t have a lot of time to gather materials and if I wanted this to last I knew I didn’t want to use the cheap felt you buy at the craft store. So I went to my fabric stash and started rethinking things. I was also totally influenced by Scandinavian Christmas decorations. My mom tends to lean that way in her decorating and I’ve always loved the modern simplicity and use of neutral whites, creams and tans with pops of bright red. It’s so pretty!
In the end, my advent calendar is basically a little quilt, it’s two layers of fabric with an appliqued Christmas tree on the front and then it has tabs to hang it from a white dowel.
And instead of 24 different little ornaments, I found these little cardboard snowflakes at the craft store. They’re diecuts, maybe intended for scrapbooking, and they were in the impulse buy bins near the register last year. Here are some very similar ones. I was hoping for wooden snowflakes but I couldn’t find anything small enough. And I will say, before I started I did a full size paper sketch and boy am I glad that I did because I really underestimated how big the tree would have to be to fit all the snowflakes without them overlapping. Anyway, I painted them white and embellished with a silver paint pen. (And of course they’re all different because everyone knows no two snowflakes are alike, right?) Piece of cake!
The idea is that at the beginning of december it’s snowing and all the little snowflakes are floating in the air and as you get closer and closer to Christmas, more and more snowflakes land on the tree!
The snowflakes have a little loop of baker’s twine glued to the back and they just hook over the button on the advent calendar. White buttons for the sky and pretty red buttons on the tree. O loves putting a snowflake on the tree each night and I think it’s a pretty decoration to look at for a whole month, so it’s a win-win!
Do you have a happy advent calendar memory from growing up?
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I think that something people often wonder about vegetarians, but rarely ask, is what DO you eat? I can tell that sometimes, when I say I don’t eat meat, I get kind of a baffled look, and then I usually get fed either pasta/spaghetti or some kind of mushroom thing. And I know most people are so kind and trying to be accommodating but it can get a little monotonous. I thought maybe, it would be interesting to all you non-veggies out there to share what we DO actually eat on a regular weeknight for dinner. Not only will it give you ideas about what to feed your vegetarian friends, but I think movements like Meatless Monday are making great traction right now and if everyone ate just a little less meat, it would be better for the Earth too!
The second question I actually do get all the time and it is, how do you get enough protein? Part 1 of my answer is that I think we have all been a little brainwashed about how much protein is really necessary. Low carb high protein diets are popular and we live in a meat and potatoes country so we all tend to think protein should be a huge part of our diets. Part 2 of the answer is that there is a ton of protein in other foods besides meat, I swear! Did you know mushrooms are high in protein? I eat eggs and dairy too. And don’t forget beans, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas… Soy products like tofu have a lot. Even quinoa has a lot of protein. And so do seeds like sunflower seeds! And of course, normal vegetarians can eat nuts (I miss you nuts!!).
So long story short, being a vegetarian is really not that complicated. I eat all the same stuff you do, just without the meat! Last week, I was faced with a mostly empty fridge and no idea what exactly to make for dinner so I thought for a while and improvised this Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potato Hash with Fried Egg and it turned out to be totally delicious. I know Brussels Sprouts can be a little love ’em or hate ’em, but I love them. If you’re not a fan, you could do this with asparagus or zucchini or something and it would still be great!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potato Hash
1 lb. Brussels Sprouts
5-6 medium red potatoes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 half large red onion
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash and chop your potatoes and onion into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks. Toss with olive oil, the garlic powder, sprinkle liberally with kosher salt, and spread out on half of a rimmed baking sheet.
4. While the potatoes and onions are cooking, wash the sprouts, cut off the stems, and cut them in half.
5. After 30-40 minutes, toss your sprouts with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and spread them, cut side down, on the other half of the cookie sheet.. Roast for about 15 more minutes until the Brussels Sprouts are soft enough to stick a fork in and the cut sides are caramelized.
6. While the Sprouts are cooking, fry 4 eggs. Cook them however you like your eggs!
7. When everything is done, toss the potatoes, onions and brussels sprouts together, add a handful of feta cheese and top with a fried egg. Yum!!
Try this recipe for the BEST baked White Bean Falafel, they’re easy to put together and come out crunchy and delicious every time!
The reason I wrote down this recipe for baked white bean falafel is that there’s this restaurant here in Chicago called Sultan’s Market that we used to go to all the time. It’s a dark hole in the wall kind of place that only takes cash. But they also have what is probably the best falafel I have ever had. They put it in a giant pita sandwich with hummus and hot sauce and cucumber salad on top and it’s totally amazing. But since we found out about O’s food allergies, most restaurants are out for us. Which is definitely a bummer (But in a way, helpful for our wallets and our waistlines! So I guess there is a silver lining, right?).
Anyway, I have tried many many recipes for falafel and bean cakes and bean burgers over the years. And I eventually settled on this one as the best baked white bean falafel I can possibly make at home (without deep frying). You can absolutely make this falafel traditionally and use garbanzo beans, but we started using white beans instead because there was a period of time when we weren’t sure if O was also allergic to garbanzos (we think he probably isn’t) and it turned out we liked the creaminess of the white beans even better. But both are delicious!
The Best Baked White Bean Falafel Ingredients
- 1 14 oz can of drained white beans (Also called Cannellini beans or Great Northern Beans)
- 1 small onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- small handful of fresh cilantro
- 2 Tb white whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- salt to taste
- Panko bread crumbs
The Best Baked White Bean Falafel Instructions
1. Drain your beans, in a food processor, process the onion and garlic until diced, then add the beans, spices, lemon juice and cilantro.
2. When it is smooth, taste it and add salt to taste (some canned beans are more salty than others) and then add the flour and baking powder and gently stir until incorporated. It should look like this:
3. Get out your panko bread crumbs. Are you familiar with Panko? If not, get some! They are delicious and bigger and much crunchier than regular bread crumbs. Pour some on a plate or a shallow bowl, they look like this:
4. Liberally grease a cookie sheet with Olive Oil.
5. With your hands, make small patties of the falafel batter. These white bean falafel will be soft, just be careful. Gently lay a falafel patty in the breadcrumbs and coat both sides. Then transfer to the oiled cookie sheet.
When I make these, it makes about 14 white bean falafel.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, flip them and bake another 15 minutes.
These baked white bean falafel are delicious with pita bread but we usually eat them plain with a little cucumber salad (cucumbers, green onion, cilantro, salt and pepper).
And a side of Jasmine Curry Rice (1 cup of jasmine or basmati rice, 2 cups of water, curry powder and salt to taste, frozen peas and fresh cilantro or parsley.