ASPARAGUS SOUP

asparagus soup 2Okay people. It’s time to get excited. I’ve been wanting a Vitamix ever since I first learned what they are. (If you don’t know, Vitamix is rumored to be THE blender of all blenders. And I believe the rumors.) I’m currently entering the HGTV dream home contest every day, twice a day, and one of the things I am most excited about is that the house comes with a Vitamix. Fingers crossed! On Thursday night, I was talking to a handsome gentleman who mentioned that he owns a Vitamix. He instantly became that much more attractive to me and I found myself inching closer and closer to his seat, plotting in my head how I could gain access to this man’s fine piece of [kitchen] machinery. I know. It’s so weird that I’m still single. I really don’t get it…

Anyway, two days later, my sister texted me and told me she finally took the plunge and bought a Vitamix and invited me over for a crazy avocado, arugula, lemon, and banana smoothie. (If you don’t know,  THE blender of all blenders is quite pricey.) This news was about the only thing that was getting me out of bed on Saturday morning after a very late night working at the bar. So, I spent most of my weekend at my sister’s apartment, experimenting with the Vitamix and pouring over the recipe book that it came with. We made 3 different smoothies and asparagus soup.

As if quality time with my sister, her Vitamix, and the Shahs of Sunset wasn’t enough to make me have the best weekend ever, my mom topped it off with the news that she’s getting a bonus check and wants to buy me a Vitamix!!! So, soon, people, I will be the proud, braggy owner of my very own Vitamix! I can jump on the detox smoothie bandwagon. Make all kinds of soups. Whip up my own salsa. Stop overstaying my welcome at my sister’s. Scrap those plans to make this boy with the Vitamix fall in love with me… or keep ’em. The possibilities are endless!

ASPARAGUS SOUP

asparagus soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup of soy milk
  • 1/2 of a white or yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a dash of garlic powder
  • grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

Put the broth and soy milk in the Vitamix first. Then add the asparagus. Turn the Vitamix to variable 1 and turn it on. Quickly turn it up to variable 10, then flip the switch from variable to high. Leave it on like that for a min or two.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small pot. Add the onions and dash of garlic, sauteing until fragrant and the onions are translucent. Pour the asparagus puree into the pot and heat for several minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer everything from the pot back to the Vitamix. Turn the Vitamix to variable 1 and turn it on. Quickly turn it up to variable 6 or 7. Then flip the switch to high. Leave it on and blending for about 5 minutes. Your soup should be piping hot and well blended at the end. You may want to add more or less broth and soy milk, depending on how thick you want your soup.

Serve in a small mug or bowl with parmesan cheese grated on top. Mmmmm!

Note: That first picture is a little shout out to Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado. I’ve never been but my sister and Pat went there for their honeymoon and it looks like the most awesome, relaxing, delicious, green, cozy get away! And here’s a picture of the Vitamix itself:

Vitamix

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BRUSSEL SPROUT AND POTATO PIZZA

brussel sprout and potato pizza 1Is is lunch time yet? I am starving this morning. And I’m pretty excited about the pizza I brought for lunch. I made it on Saturday night and have grand plans in about 8 minutes to go re-heat it in the toaster oven at my office.

If you’ve been reading my blog since its inception, you’ll know that I love a pizza with potatoes on it. I also happen to love shaved brussel sprouts. And this pizza has both. So, it’s pretty delicious. I won’t say too much more because all I wanna do is post this and then go eat it. I’m still working without a real pizza peel, which is why all of my pizzas are in the shape of flat breads. Is there a difference anyway?

BRUSSEL SPROUT AND POTATO PIZZA

brussel sprout and potato pizza 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ball of whole wheat pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
  • 4-5 large brussel sprouts
  • 1/2 of a russet potato
  • 1/4 (or less) of a red onion
  • grated parmesan riggiano cheese or fontina (I actually prefer fontina but I couldn’t find any in the store this weekend)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • lots of pepper
  • salt to taste
  • rosemary to taste (about a teaspoon)
  • flour (about 2 tablespoons worth. seminola flour is ideal, but if you don’t have it, you can just use regular flour)
  • Tools: a pizza peel (or wooden cutting board with a handle), pizza stone, mandolin, cheese grater (I finally bought a grater/zester at the mall this weekend! woohoo!)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Put the pizza stone in the oven and let it heat up on the top rack of the oven. Ideally, you should let it heat for an hour. I think I only allowed, like, 35-40 mins this time. I was hungry.

Using the mandolin, slice your potato and red onion  into very thin slices. Put in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt, pepper, rosemary liberally and toss well, coating the potatoes. Set aside.

On a well floured surface, roll out your pizza dough. The dough should be stretched thin, but not too thin so that it won’t hold up with your ingredients on it. Flour the pizza peel well and stretch the dough across (not over the whole peel, just so that it’s as large as you want your pizza to be).

In a small bowl, combine the rest of the olive oil with the garlic. Using a brush or a spoon, spread the oil/garlic over the surface of the dough, leaving about a 1/4 inch border. Place the potatoes and onions on the dough in one, relatively even layer. Grate a bit of cheese over top.

Transfer the pizza to the pizza stone very carefully. It helps to pull the oven rack out a bit. It also takes a while to master this transfer, especially if you’ve already put your toppings on your pizza. Some people say you should bake the crust a bit first before you put the toppings on. But since I usually put potatoes on my pizza, I like to let them in the oven longer so they cook all the way through.

While the pizza and potatoes are baking, quickly (but carefully. you could lose a finger. I know from experience*) shave your brussel sprouts on the mandolin.  Put the shaved brussel sprouts in the bowl that the potatoes were in and add a slight coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper. There should be enough oil residue left in the bowl from the potatoes that you do not need to add more. But definitely add more salt and pepper. Even some crushed red pepper if you like.

Once the pizza has been in the oven for about ten minutes, pull it out (leave it on the stone, just pull the rack out of the oven) and top with the brussel sprouts and more grated cheese. I do not like a lot of cheese on my pizza, so just use however much you prefer.

But it back in the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes or so, until the dough is a bit brown and your potatoes are cooked through. Transfer pizza from the stone back to the peel. Let it cool a bit and then enjoy!

*Important tip: Always use the food holder/hand-guard whenever you use your mandolin. Seriously. I did not do this once and lost the tip of my pinky. It was traumatic. I am still physically and emotionally scarred.

CHICKPEA SALAD AND JASMINE RICE

Chickpea salad with riceIsn’t it strange how distance can sometimes make you closer with someone? It’s like because you have to make more of an effort to maintain the friendship, you end up making concrete plans more often. Or call them on the phone to catch up and end up talking forever. Whereas, when a friend lives around the corner, sometimes you get lackadaisical about making plans because you just figure you can see them any time. My best friend, Emily, moved to New York a year ago. I was afraid we might grow apart. But it seems like we’re closer than ever. My friend Steve is about to move to California. And it’s got me changing out of my pajamas at 10:00 on a school night to go meet him at the bar just so I can hang with him a few more times before he goes.

When I moved into my apartment a year ago, I was excited to be a few doors down from my friend Kate. But when she came over for dinner the other night, she pointed out to me that we saw each other more when I lived 20 minutes away, vs. the 20 feet from my door to hers. Kate, our friend Melissa, and I would get together for monthly dinners. But since I’ve moved to the neighborhood, they’ve kind of died off. Maybe it’s just life that’s getting in the way, and not the distance… or lack there of. But we’ve decided to try to pick these back up. We had our first one on Tuesday night.

I made a chickpea and leeks salad (recipe courtesy of Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks) with a side of rice (recipe courtesy of my cousin Jaime). The two were not meant to be served together as one big entree, but that’s how I ate it the next night, and it was so much better than when I had Kate and Melissa over for dinner and we ate the two separately. I am posting the recipes for both. You can make and serve them mixed together or completely separately. It’s up to you.

CHICKPEA AND LEEK SALAD WITH CURRY YOGURT DRESSING

chickpea salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of chickpeas
  • 1 large leek, sliced into fine strips
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (or whatever kind of oil you prefer. coconut oil is my new obsession)
  • 1  lemon
  • 1 cup of low fat, plain Greek yogurt (or 3/4 of a cup will do)
  • curry powder to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of fresh, chopped cilantro
  • roughly 1/2 cup of chopped red onion
  • 1 cup of slivered almonds

Directions:

Heat the coconut oil in large pan. Stir in the chickpeas and saute them until they start turning a golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the leeks and saute until they are soft. Stir in the garlic and juice from half of your lemon. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Set skillet aside.

To make the dressing, add curry powder and sea salt to the Greek yogurt to taste. I also added a bit of lemon juice to the yogurt to help thin it out. Heidi Swanson suggests adding warm water if you need to thin out the dressing. But I just used lemon juice. She also said to use lemon zest in the chickpea and leek saute, but I don’t have a lemon zester. So, there you go. I improvised.

Once the chickpeas and leeks are relatively cool, mix with the dressing, almonds, cilantro, and red onion. You probably will not need all of the dressing. Add it little by little until the salad is dressed however you prefer it.

You can serve this salad alone, as a side dish, in a wrap, or mixed in with the rice recipe below!

JAIME’S RICE

Jaimes rice

I don’t know what to call this recipe, so I’m calling it Jaime’s rice. Although, I really didn’t even follow the recipe she sent me. I just kind of made it up as I went along. But the general idea came from her.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Basmati rice (or Jasmine), cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 cup of chopped parsley
  • lemon juice (about 1/2- 1 lemon’s worth)
  • a handful of plump, golden raisins
  • 1-2 tablespoons of oil, your choice.  (I used canola. The original recipe called for pistachio oil, and Jaime used avocado oil)
  • a handful of pistachios (I didn’t have these, so I guess they are optional)

Directions:

Cook the rice according to package directions. Once the rice is cooked and cooled slightly, add all other ingredients. Mix with a fork, otherwise it will all mush together. Eat as is or mix with the recipe above!

WILD RICE WITH TOFU AND MISO DRESSING

wild rice and tofu

Friends. Allow me to introduce you to my FAVORITE recipe of 2013. What? We’re only 9 days into 2013? Eh. That’s neither here nor there. This recipe was freakin’ awesome. And I’ve only tried one other recipe so far this year. And I did not like it. So nevermind that the competition wasn’t steep. This recipe still rules.

My sister gave me the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook for Christmas, which in turned introduced me to their blog. The tagline is “a tastier take on whole foods,” which I love, especially in the new year, when you have a good excuse (not a resolution) to start fresh and get back to your roots. By roots I mean less processed foods. This is something I’m always trying to do– eat more whole foods. Sure, I keep the occasional Uncrustable or Healthy Choice frozen entree in my freezer for those days when I just can’t put the effort into healthy eating. But over the holidays I over indulged like it was nobody’s business. And I’m paying the price. I feel disgusting. So, it’s really important to me right now to kind of detox, eat less crap and GO RUNNING!

What I’m trying to say is that a tastier take on whole foods is something that’s really striking a chord with me at the moment. And the recipes in this book all look so good! I tried one last week that I can’t stop thinking about. I must confess the that recipe is not in the book, but I found it on the Sprouted Kitchen blog. It contains tofu, which I was nervous about because I’ve never successfully cooked tofu. I enjoy tofu, but I just suck at cooking it. But this time, it was a success! My first ever successful tofu adventure! How exciting!!! No? Hey, I was excited. Anywaaay. Sara from the Sprouted Kitchen gives good instructions for how to saute the tofu. Don’t be intimidated by some of the ingredients in this recipe, like white miso, which I had one heck of a time finding at Whole Foods (of all places). Tip: It’s in refrigerated section. Who knew. Anyway, the recipe was so yummy that you’ll want to make it again and again and will eventually use all of that miso and coconut oil you bought!

wild rice and tofu2

WILD RICE WITH TOFU AND MISO DRESSING

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup wild rice, cooked according to package instructions
  • 14 oz. block extra firm tofu
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 heaping cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 2-3 celery stalks, thinly sliced (this was my own addition)
  • 3/4 cup cooked, shelled, organic edamame
  • 3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • Handful of Chopped Cilantro

For the Miso Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp. white miso
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or brown rice syrup (I had neither of these. So I used a few sprinkles of brown sugar.)
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice of half an Orange

Directions:

Cook the wild rice according to package directions. I did this and my rice seemed like it was burning. So I added more water about 3/4 of the way through cooking. What a difference it made! Saved my rice!

To cook the tofu, first you need to drain it and drain it well. Wrap the tofu between a few layers of paper towels, put something heavy on top so that the liquid is squeezed out, and set it aside to drain for 10-15 minutes. Once it is drained well, cut it into 1/2 cubes. I patted even more with the paper towels after I cut it.

Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the tofu and saute for about five minutes, turning it over and over in the pan. Sprinkle with soy sauce and cook for another few minutes until the edges are browned. Turn off heat and set aside. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, tofu, carrots, celery and edamame. Toss everything with the dressing. Add the sesame seeds and cilantro and give it another toss.

This can be served room temperature, chilled, or warm. I ate it warm the first time, and then room temperature the next day. It was so good!

Note: This was my first time cooking with coconut oil. When buying it, I didn’t know if I should get the expeller-pressed or not. I actually don’t even really know what that means. But the oil I bought was pressed… I think. When I opened it, it was hard, almost like wax from a candle. I was like what the…? But it actually was awesome to cook with. It didn’t burn off in the skillet like other oils will. I’ve cooked with it a few times since this recipe and have been really happy with the results.

recipe adapted from: the Sprouted Kitchen

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Greek New Years CakeI hate New Year’s Eve. It’s always been my least favorite holiday. There’s always so much build up, so many expectations. In the end you simply end up getting drunk with the same people you see every weekend, but the difference is you’ve spent way more money on a cover charge, drinks and a fancy schmancy outfit only to go home disappointed that you had no one to kiss at midnight. Every year I say I am going to stay home and straight chilllll, yet I always get talked into going out. My best New Year’s Eve was spent bartending at Jose’s, followed by unplanned day drinking in sweats on New Year’s Day with my best friend at Jose’s.

Resolutions are another reason I can’t stand this holiday. They’re such a buzz kill! I always write down my resolutions: 2010 Be on time for work; lose weight; eat healthier; flirt more; and be more open minded (re: dating). 2011 Be on time for work; lose 15 lbs; go out on a few dates 2012: Be on time for work; save money; smile more. But when the year draws to a close and I reflect on those resolutions, I feel like such a failure. Every year I think, “This is it. This is my year. This is the year I really get my life together.” But I end up disappointed when certain things in my life didn’t change that year. So this year I decided it’s time to give it up. My 2013 resolution is no more resolutions… and write blog posts on a more regular basis.

But then I got to thinking… and you know what? 2012 kinda was my year. Okay, so maybe I didn’t meet Mr. Right. And my weight is… well, let’s just say it could be better but it could also be worse. And maaaybe I’m still late for work on occasion. But in 2012 I accomplished quite a bit. I got my own, roommate-free apartment, which I love. I got a promotion, complete with my own office, an assistant and an intern. I paid off a few credit cards. I bought a new car. I turned 30 and felt completely at peace with it. And I even went on a few dates. So resolutions aside, I’d say it was a win. I’m still not making any resolutions this year, but am looking forward to what 2013 will bring.

Many of you may not know this, but I come from a Greek family. It’s a Greek tradition to make Vasilopita cake for New Year’s. In this cake is a hidden coin or trinket (in my family we put a quarter), and whoever gets the piece with the coin in it is said to have good luck for the year. My Aunt Joanne always makes this cake. I personally have never made it. But I wanted to share this family tradition with all of you. Maybe it will bring you luck!

VASILOPITA CAKE (or GREEK NEW YEAR’S CAKE)

Greek New Years Cake 2 quarter in the cake cutting the greek cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quarter, washed, wrapped in foil
  • 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Directions:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Grease and flour 10×4-inch tube pan. Using electric mixer, cream butter with 1 3/4 cups sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs, water and vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder in small bowl. Gradually mix dry ingredients into butter mixture (batter will be very thick). Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites with salt in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Press coin into cake. Sprinkle with nuts and sesame seeds. Bake until toothpick inserted near center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Run knife around pan to loosen. Invert onto plate. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature.)

Note: I actually wrote this post before New Year’s even happened. But the draft did not save. I was super bummed about it so I procrastinated re-writing it. But I wanted to point out that I actually had a post completed in a timely manner! 

KALE AND ROSEMARY SOUP

I love soup. I never knew how easy it was to make until recently. And now I just can’t stop trying different soup recipes. And by trying, I mean pinning. On Pinterest. Which is not real life. Which I must often remind myself.

This is a soup recipe that I’ve made twice and have grand plans to make again tonight to have for lunch tomorrow and Friday. But tonight, I am going to try adding egg noodles so that the soup has just a little bit more substance and in a way, resembles chicken noodle soup. But without the chicken. Or chicken broth. And add kale. Speaking of kale, have I ever mentioned that it’s my favorite vegetable? Or well, one of them. They say kale is a power food. Or is the term super food? Either way, it damn sure feels like one super powerful veggie. Whenever I’m feeling like I need a little detox or a little bit of super health food power in my life, I just steam up a bit of kale, sprinkle it with salt and pepp, and voila! I’m, like, totally revived! And as a bonus, this soup recipe, rich with that super power food kale, is very easy and quick and comforting on a cold winter day.

I originally found the idea for this recipe on, wait for it… Pinterest. I used it just as a starting point for a simple soup to make for dinner one night when I wanted to throw together something vegan. Luckily, since I never really followed the recipe, I memorized how to make this very quickly, and it’s a good thing because I just went to find the original post and got the dreaded “PAGE NOT FOUND” error message. (Does that mean I can say this is my very own original recipe?? I mean, it basically is.) My cousin asked me to send the link to her so she could make it for dinner tonight, and since it’s not there, all of my soupdujour readers are getting lucky with two blog posts in one day. You can thank my cousin and most faithful reader, Jaime… and the “PAGE NOT FOUND” error message.

kale and rosemary soup

KALE AND ROSEMARY SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 1 small yellow/white onion (or 1/2 of a large onion), diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped (or stems removed)
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1-2 celery stalks, cut into thin slices
  • 1-2 cups of kale, stems removed, broken into slightly larger than bite-size pieces
  • 1 can of cannellini beans (or navy beans, or any small white beans), drained and rinsed well
  • 4-5 cups of vegetable stock (or I am sure broth would work)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or sauce pan. Add the onions and garlic and saute until fragrant. Add carrots and celery and saute for another minute or two. Add rosemary. Add vegetable stock, then the beans. Let it come to a boil and simmer until the carrots and celery are soft, about 10 minutes. Add kale and let simmer for a few minutes until the kale is soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve steamy with a good, hearty slice of bread (optional).

 

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

winter snowOkay, so I realize that technically Christmas is over and I should be posting about New Year’s or something… But give a girl a break. If there’s one thing you should have learned about me from reading this blog, it’s that I’m always a little late with my posts. But don’t worry. The New Year’s post is coming! I swear. Maybe even later today if we’re lucky. In the mean time, pretend that it’s a week ago and you’re reading this the day after Christmas, not the day after  New Year’s…

Christmas is a magical time of year. I know it’s become such a ridiculously commercial holiday. But I still think there’s something magical about Christmas morning. Something about the light. I can’t explain it. But when I’m sitting around with my family, eating cinnamon buns (a Christmas tradition in our family), opening our stockings full of toiletries and kitchen or office supplies, there’s just this magical feeling that I don’t want to ever go away.

But alas, it inevitably does. And the next thing you know the holidays are over and you’re back to work, depressed, unmotivated and wishing life was a permanent vacation. The one good thing is that you finally have time to write blog posts again! While I did do quite a bit of cooking over the holidays, I kind of forgot to take pictures of what I made. Oops! So you’ll have to imagine what the finished results look like and make do with the other holiday photos below.

This is my go-to holiday recipe– one that I make all the time for holiday parties and other random get togethers. I got the recipe from a co-worker a few years ago, but it’s become a staple in our family (and in my best friend’s family now too!). These spinach balls are relatively easy to make, but can be somewhat time consuming and messy… But I promise that they are delicious and worth every minute of having your hands covered in wet spinach!

SPINACH BALLS

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of butter or margarine
  • 2 boxes of frozen spinach, cooked and drained well
  • 2 cups of Pepperidge Farm stuffing crumbs (if you can’t find the crumbs, you can buy the cubes and pulse them in a food proccesser for a hot sec)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped onions
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • Optional: ranch dressing for dipping

Directions:

Mix together all ingredients and refrigerate until mixture “sets up.” Pre-heat oven to 350. Form into balls and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Serve immediately, with ranch on the side for dipping and watch them disappear!

Note: If I am making these ahead of time (like the day before), I usually bake them until they are not quite done. Then right before I am serving them, I will put them back in the oven for about 5 minutes so that they can be served warm but do not burn. However, they still taste good at room temperature!

gordons tart

This was the dessert table on Christmas night. My step-dad makes this pear tart every year. It’s delicious! And this year my mom decided that as favors, she would give everyone in the family a mug with their initial on it (shown below). For the babies and kids who are too young for mugs, we gave them an ornament with their initial. The mugs and the ornaments are from Anthropologie.

ems crepe cake

My sister made this beautiful and delicious crepe cake for Christmas. She’s a professional cake decorator, so of course, it was a treat to look at!

winter snow 2

It was a white Christmas this year! Well, kind of. It snowed on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. Not enough to stick around. But it was cozy and beautiful nonetheless! 

christmas table

The table that I decorated. Please take note of the beautiful mantle in the background! I also decorated this. Sometimes I like to pretend I am Martha Stewart. But please ignore that the small tree on the right is not lit up. We ran out of lights and had to wait for my sister and brother-in-law to bring over a strand. Martha never would have let this happen. But luckily, Pat (my brother-in-law) saved Christmas! He even put the lights on the tree for us. Thanks, Pat! 

christmas morning

Christmas morning… Looks like Santa was here!