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International Holiday Dessert Favorites
Learning about Food & Drink

International Holiday Dessert Favorites

The holidays are a joyous time all around the world. Depending on where you may find yourself, the celebrations can reach large scales, with an abundance of Christmas Markets, large Christmas Trees, parades, and much more, further spreading the holiday cheer that many look forward to each year. Like the large occasions, the food excels just as much, especially within the sweets department! Cookies, cakes, and other desserts make the holiday season so much more special, with pies, decorated cookies, and flavors of peppermint, apple, and cinnamon filling the air, leaving us reminiscing on the times of the times we shared around the fire with our loved ones. All around the world, different countries enjoy the same holidays in their ways, with versions of desserts that make this time of the year special for foodies and families alike. Today, we wanted to take you on a journey worldwide to see all the delicious desserts enjoyed by cultures during this time of the year to inspire you to try some of these out for yourself! 

Polish Pierniczki (Polish Gingerbread Cookies)

This Polish dessert, also known as the Polish Gingerbread Cookie, is a classic treat passed out to children on December 6th yearly by St. Nicholas (or Święty Mikołaj in Polish). The city of Toruń has been known famously for making gingerbread cookies since the Middle Ages and used to be cut into beautiful shapes using intricately carved wooden molds. Today, though, pierniczki is cut into various shapes and other beautiful designs, and even shaped as Santa Claus! 

To make these cookies, you’ll need eggs, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, dissolved baking soda, honey, and all-purpose flour. Simply beat two eggs with sugar until light, add to the eggs the spices, baking soda dissolved in three tablespoons of water, and honey, and mix well. Gradually add the flour and mix the ingredients until a stiff dough forms. Once the dough is formed, wrap it in plastic to let it rest for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes are up, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and roll the dough out in preparation to cut it into your desired shapes! Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes and let the cookies cool before icing them (if desired). 

German Christollen (Stollen Bread)

A true German classic holiday dessert, Christollen (also known as stollen bread), has been around for hundreds of years and has become a worldwide popular Christmas pastry! Its candied fruit and nut remind so many of the happiness of the holiday season, with its sweet flavor complimenting a nice coffee or other warm winter drink. This delicious bread originates from Dresden, Germany, and can be dated back to 1329, thanks to a contest in which bakers baked a loaf of bread with the finest butter, sugar, raisins, citron, and other ingredients. The Bishop of Nauruburg at the time had enjoyed the bread so dearly that he ordered a specific amount of grain to make only stollen. It became an element of the Christmas season during 1424 when Christollen began to be sold at the Christmas Market, also known as the Streizelmarket. Today, Christollen or stollen bread, in general, is available worldwide at grocery stores and specialty stores alike! You can also make it at home and, while time-consuming, will be sure to wow your loved ones and transport you to the snowy holiday season of Germany. 

Chilean Pan de Pascua Fruitcake

Another delicious treat enjoyed during the holiday season hails from Chile and is reminiscent of the German stollen bread we mentioned earlier. This bread, also known as Pan de Pascua, is thought to have descended from German stollen and Italian panettone but adapted to match the South American region's spices, liquors, fruits, and nuts. Typically this bread is served with cola de mono, a spiced alcoholic coffee drink, and another Chilean holiday tradition. However, it would pair well with coffee, tea, or even as a nice standalone dessert.

To make Pan de Pascua, you will need a few things: butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, strongly-brewed coffee, and brandy (you could use pisco or rum), among other ingredients. Making this bread takes a bit of time, but you will be thrilled you did! The results are picture-perfect and great to share with friends and loved ones during this holiday season.

Filipino Bibingka

Another holiday favorite hails from the Philippines and is known as Bibingka. This delicious coconut rice cake is a staple for Christmastime in the Philippines. Its savoriness combined with the sweetness of the coconut makes for a decadent treat that would be perfect to serve with a nice hot coffee or even hot chocolate. Many find Bibingka to be a staple of their childhood, reminding them of the time spent with family and friends, celebrating Christmas with loved ones. Bibingka is a savory dessert, but it is the true definition of home in food.

To prepare Bibingka, you’ll need some rice flour, salt, baking powder, butter, sugar, coconut milk, fresh milk, a salted duck egg, grated cheese, some raw eggs, grated coconut, and a pre-cut banana leaf. For this recipe, you’ll start off by preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and combine rice flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing them together well. Cream the butter and add in sugar while whisking, and then whisk in the eggs until everything is well mixed. Gradually add in both coconut milk as well as fresh milk and whisk again for 1 to 2 minutes more. Lay the banana leaf onto a baking pan, pour the mixture into the pan, put it in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Once you take the Bibingka out of the oven, top it with the sliced salted egg and grated cheese, and bake the cake for an additional 15 minutes until the top is medium brown. Once cooled, brush with butter and top with grated coconut!

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Healthy Appetizers: Pop's All You Need Guide
Learning about Food & Drink

Healthy Appetizers: Pop's All You Need Guide

With the holiday season quickly approaching, there’s no question that appetizers are a fan favorite among most. According to KRCA, about 64% of consumers worldwide mention that they would much rather snack throughout the day than eat multiple larger meals, so there is no doubt that appetizers fit well into this sentiment. There is much to love in these finger foods as well; there are many restaurants, for example, that turn larger food items into quick-to-eat yet filling smaller versions that can easily make a meal of their own. Appetizers set the mood at parties, with finger foods making an excellent pairing with drinks while talking to friends or loved ones. So many of the appetizers we consume are full of calories and fats that may cause more harm than good. So for today’s Pop’s All You Need Guide, we wanted to share some healthier appetizers you can enjoy that will be sure to keep you full and healthy this holiday season (so you can indulge some more of your food favorites!).

What Are Appetizers?

Before we look into different appetizers you can prepare, we wanted to look at what an appetizer is. As noted by Delighted Cooking, appetizers are considered finger foods served typically before a meal and range from simple to complex, depending on the occasion and who makes them. You may also hear the names hors d’oeuvres, antipasti, or starters in lieu of ‘appetizer,’ but they all mean the same thing! Additionally, you can make a wide variety of appetizers, so you’re bound to find a recipe that works for your special occasion. Whether you’re planning a holiday party with friends or a much more formal get-together, there will likely be a healthy and easy-to-prepare appetizer for your needs.

Cowboy Caviar:

This classic appetizer makes for the perfect savory option. Chock full of vegetables and beans, Cowboy Caviar won’t leave you feeling overfull before you even enjoy the main meal. Perfectly paired with chips, this dip is light yet still full of flavor and will be sure to have your guests returning for seconds (and thirds). Cowboy caviar is also a wonderful recipe to prepare if you are short on time as it requires no baking or cooking time, only a few minutes to chop all the ingredients and mix them.

You’ll need a few items to prepare this delicious appetizer: three Roma tomatoes, two diced avocadoes, a third of a cup of diced red onion, 15oz black beans rinsed and drained, 15oz of black-eyed peas rinsed and drained, one and a half cup frozen thawed sweet corn, one bell pepper, one deseeded and diced jalapeno pepper, and a third of a cup of chopped cilantro. You’ll also need olive oil, lime juice, sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder for the dressing. The instructions for preparing Cowboy Caviar are simple, requiring only four steps! First, toss together tomatoes, avocado, onion, black beans, black-eyed peas, corn, pepper, jalapeno pepper, and cilantro in a bowl. Mix the olive oil, lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper, and garlic powder in a separate container. Once both are complete, mix them together in one large bowl! Make sure to keep the Cowboy Caviar refrigerated after preparation and serve it with tortilla chips for the ultimate treat.

Classic Vegetables and Dip:

Another easy, healthy, and delicious appetizer that will be sure to keep your guests satisfied without feeling too full before the main meal is the classic vegetables and dip! This is the most versatile of the appetizers we’ll discuss today, as there are infinite possibilities for putting this together! Additionally, vegetables and dip take very little time to prepare, making it the perfect appetizer choice if you’re low on time or busy preparing other foods.

Some vegetables you can use for this appetizer include:

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Snow Peas
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Radishes
  • And so much more!

Various dips make this appetizer delicious, ranging from classic ranch dressing to creamy poppyseed dressing to sour cream and onion dip! Depending on the available time, you can prepare the dressings at home ahead of time, or, if time is limited, you can find packets and premade dips and dressings you can prepare in minutes.

Cucumber Smoked Salmon Bites:

If you’re looking for something a bit fancy to serve your guests, Cucumber Smoked Salmon Bites make for a savory and refreshing treat that will surely set the meal off on the right foot! Additionally, this dish is hefty with nutrients, thanks to the combination of cucumber and salmon together with cream cheese to balance everything out. According to Prepare and Nourish, the ingredients in this appetizer are naturally low-carb and GAPS diet-compliant, making this a perfect guilt-free appetizer for anyone looking to watch their carb intake.

What makes cucumber smoked salmon bites so wonderful is their versatility; depending on your preferences, you can add or change your toppings to fit the tastes of those attending your get-together. For example, you can add everything bagel seasoning to give these salmon bites more of a salty flavor, dill to provide a bit of tang, or even simply season with salt and pepper to give the salmon bites a simple yet balanced taste that will be sure to wow your guests. Just like the appetizers we mentioned before, this dish is straightforward to prepare and only requires a few ingredients and steps to get you started. All you will need are some cucumbers, full-fat cream cheese, smoked salmon, a lemon, fresh dill, capers (for garnish), and some everything bagel seasoning.

Charcuterie Boards:

Charcuterie boards are a popular appetizer choice that fits any holiday (or even a simple picnic) party. Fruits, cheeses, and meats, all presented in a beautiful layout, make this dish beautiful to look at and even more delicious to eat. Additionally, this appetizer makes for a highly customizable experience and pairs perfectly with wine (if you’re serving during this party). Some perfect pairings for your next charcuterie board can easily be found at your local grocery store and may include cured meats like turkey or ham, various kinds of cheese (mozzarella, gouda, swiss, and so many others work well with this!), olives and nuts, fruit, dried fruits, crackers or small pieces of bread, and some jelly or jam. Additionally, you’ll need a board to place all of these items on; typically, charcuterie boards are wooden and quite large in size, and you can find them at your local store. For garnish, add some fresh rosemary and thyme around the board to add a little greenery (it makes the board smell great too). Your loved ones will surely enjoy this appetizer, and this combination will also be easy on the stomach before lunch or dinner is served!

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Cookies: Pop's All You Need Guide
Learning about Food & Drink

Cookies: Pop's All You Need Guide

When it comes to the holidays, nothing is better to bring people together than the sweet treats we call cookies. These delectable delights are a fantastic way to spread cheer to those around you, whether that be decorating cookies with your children or loved ones or even dropping off some freshly baked to your neighbors! What makes cookies even more special are the wide varieties out there to create - the possibilities are truly endless! Additionally, according to Cookie Elf, Americans consume over 2 billion cookies a year, and some states have even adopted their state cookies to mark their love for this dessert. If you're a cookie lover, this guide is for you. For today’s Pop All You Need Guide, we thought it was the perfect time to discuss one of the true staples of the holiday season and provide some insight and inspiration into how you can adopt cookies to become a part of your holiday traditions.

History of the Cookie

The cookie, as we know it, can be traced back to the 7th century A.D. in Persia (or modern-day Iran). According to What’s Cooking America, Persia was one of the first countries to cultivate sugarcane into sugar and create luxury pastries and cakes, with the Crusades and the developing spice trade into Northern Europe further spreading the techniques. By the 14th century, little wafers were eaten all around Paris, and recipes for cookies began to develop further in abundance in Renaissance cookbooks - cookies truly started to catch on at this time.

Additionally, as people began to travel the world via sea, biscuits (much harder and denser cookies) became extremely popular due to their long shelf life and portability! By the 18th century and the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution, cookies became a craft as bakers became highly esteemed during this period. More recipes were developed, and faster preparation methods were formed, allowing this dessert to become more normalized throughout Europe and into America (as people began to immigrate).

Fun Facts about Cookies

Now that we’ve covered some of the history behind the modern-day cookie, it’s time to talk about some fun facts that may be fun to pull out at your next holiday party!

  • According to the New York Times, chocolate chip cookies were invented back in the 1930s by Ruth Wakefield, who went on to become one of the founders of the infamous Tollhouse Cookies!
  • According to Immaculate Baking, the world’s largest cookie was 102ft wide and weighed over 40,000 pounds!
  • According to QCLife, baking cookies were used as a way to help boost camaraderie during World War II; home bakers were encouraged to whip up batches of cookies and send them overseas to soldiers who were fighting at the time.

Different Types of Cookies

If you’re a cookie lover, you’ll know that an abundant variety is available when exploring the world of this dessert. It’s important to note, though, that what one part of the world enjoys as a cookie varies in flavor and type, so we wanted to look at the abundance of different types of cookies available across the globe to provide a nice variety you can try yourself!

Shortbread

One of the most common cookies found worldwide (in different varieties) is the shortbread cookie. Originally hailing from Scotland, these decadent cookies are perfect for any teatime! These cookies are readily available at stores but can be a delicious treat to make at home, especially for the holidays. There are many different versions of this cookie, ranging from the traditional shortbread to brown sugar shortbread caramel bars. Today, we wanted to focus on the most original variation, the Scottish shortbread, as it has become the most well-known worldwide! You’ll need a few ingredients to make this sweet treat, including cornstarch, cane sugar, vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, real butter, and salt, and the results of this easy-to-follow recipe will be well worth your efforts!

Pizzelles

A classic hailing from Italy, the pizzelle is the perfect light and tasty cookie that will be sure to have you grabbing for more. Reminiscent of a waffle in a way, these cookies are a wonderful way to enjoy something tasty without the heaviness or denseness of something like shortbread. You’ll need a pizzelle iron to recreate this cookie, but the ingredients needed are quite simple. All you’ll need to create these traditional Italian waffle cookies are some eggs, sugar, vanilla (anise is traditionally used), butter or oil, and some flour. You can also recreate other varieties of pizzelles, including chocolate pizzelles, savory pizzelles, or even try this Orange Amaretto Pizzelle recipe for something delicious for your next get-together or date night!

Palmiers

Staying within the same continent, we now travel over to France as we feast upon palmiers, delicious pastry-like cookies that are sweet, light, and, most importantly, delectable to enjoy. This cookie makes for a great beginner-friendly recipe and only takes a few ingredients to create! Most recipes call for puff pastry (homemade or store-bought if you’re low on time), sugar, and a bit of time to prep and bake the cookies to reach their desired texture; It truly is a cookie that cannot be beaten! Additionally, if you’re looking for a different flavor, add cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and orange zest like this recipe

Mexican Cinnamon Cookies

Moving over to the North American continent, we make our way to Mexico, home of the Mexican Cinnamon cookie (or Polvorones de Canela in Spanish)! This buttery, powdered sugar-covered cookie traditionally served at weddings makes for the perfect complimentary treat to any afternoon coffee, hot chocolate drink, milk, or even dessert! They also make great gifts for family and neighbors, perfect for spreading holiday cheer to all in your life. All you’ll need to make this cookie is butter, white sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, all-purpose flour, and powdered sugar, as well as 20 minutes of baking time, making for a straightforward and enjoyable (and delicious!) recipe perfect for the holidays. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

As we move up the North American continent, we head into the United States, home of the chocolate chip cookie. If you’re like us, likely you’re a huge fan of this cookie; its smooth chocolate chunks balanced by the rich but lightness of the cookie make for one truly delicious treat perfect for the cold weather. Fun fact: as we mentioned before, the chocolate chip cookie was created by Ruth Wakefield in the 1930s, but did you know it happened by accident? It is said that when Ruth was mixing a batch of cookies for guests she was serving at her roadside inn (known as the Toll House Inn), she realized she was out of baker's chocolate (which usually melts into the cookies). As a result, Ruth decided to substitute broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate as she expected it to melt like that of baker’s chocolate, but instead, she ended up with - you guessed it - chocolate chip cookies. Nowadays, many chocolate chip cookie recipes are available, with different varieties of chocolate or even featuring a different cookie base, like peanut butter or oatmeal! Additionally, you don’t need many ingredients to recreate these classic cookies. All you will need on hand is butter, white and light brown sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips! 

All in all, cookies are a sweet treat that brings people together. While we wish we could cover them all, we hope this provided some wonderful insight and inspiration into the world of cookies and that you can share this treat with friends and family. If you’re looking for more inspiration or want to learn more about the world of food, check out our blog for recipes, tips, and more!

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