By: Nicole Kucharski
Out with the old and in with the new, is this holiday season’s motto. Ashley Greene, originally from Alabama, has been living in Chicago for the past few years working her way up the corporate ladder. However, her career isn’t what makes Ashley a perfect fit for my holiday blog. Instead, it’s Ashley’s ability to give traditional holiday ea$ some funtastic twists. From her holiday mac n’ cheese, to her Winter Wonderland Jello, Ashley enjoys incorporating her foodie skills with her favorite season: Christmas.
Nikki:What are some past holiday foods that you have put an ‘Ashley twist’ on?
Ashley: Well, you know the feast of seven fishes? Yea, well last Christmas I chose to make my own feast of seven pastas. The pastas weren’t necessarily anything fancy. Two of the pastas were even simple boxed mac and cheese and canned ravioli. Also, for some friends who don’t eat meat of Christmas eve, it was the perfect meat-less alternative.
Nikki: That’s neat. Other then on Christmas Eve, have you taken everyday meals and made them more holiday-ish?
Ashley: Of course! That’s my favorite part about Christmas. I have a reason to take normal meals and give them a holiday twist without looking like a loony. My specialty is desserts, so let me start with that. Two years ago I came up with this idea to make a Winter Wonderland Jello. The jello is usually blue and before refrigerating I put little edible pieces, like snowmen or christmas trees, inside so it looks like they are living in a big jello globe. Last year I took the idea of a christmas tree and made it edible. I did this by making holiday cookie ornaments and using them as decorations for my smaller Christmas tree.
Nikki: You mentioned your holiday twists on dessert, but have you attempted to put a holiday twist on breakfast or dinner meals?
Ashley: I have. One time, as a joke to one of my hispanic friends, I had taken a Santa figurine and positioned him on a plate so that it looked like he was pulling a bag of presents with him. The “bag” was actually a wrapped up tortilla stuffed like a regular burrito. We both got a good laugh out of it. Another simple idea is to take food coloring and make green and red tortilla chips. The chips are safe to eat and look eye-catching.
Nikki: Okay, now I have to ask where do you get these inspirations from and how do you find the time to create so many holiday inspirred eats?
ASHLEY: Well first of all I went to culinary school and even though I never did anything with that I always had a passion for food. My godmother who I am very close with is an amazing chef so her love for food kinda rubbed off on me. All of my ideas come randomly. Like the jello idea came to me one day when I was thinking about snow globes and how I always loved them as a kid. And it’s amazing how many everyday food items can be used to give meals a holiday twist. Simple powder sugar can give that snowy effect. M & M’s can be used as buttons or rudolph’s nose. I think that since I’m detail oriented it’s easy for me to notice little things like that and then be able to put them to good use.
Nikki: Tell me a little more about how everyday food items can be used to make holiday food decorations.
Ashley: Let me think…the obvious one is frosting. You can turn anything into a frosty wonderland with some colored frosting. Coconut bits can be used as fur or santa’s beard. A simple bun cake can suddenly become a christmas reef. Chopped green onion or peppers with chopped tomatoes can add a holiday touch to any mac ‘n cheese. I even do simple little things like stick a candy cane in a hot chocolate or martini to make it a christmas drink.
Nikki: Alright, final question: What is your favorite christmas eat$ recipe if you had to choose.
Ashley: Does this have to be a traditional christmas dish or something that I’ve made in the past?
Nikki: Either or.
Ashley: Okay, well then I’d have to say that one of my favorites is my very own christmas cinnabon. It tastes like a regular cinnabon but i decorate it with green and red icing as well as sugar snowflakes, which you can buy at a grocery store. I already said I love dessert, so any dessert I can put a holiday twist on is definitely a winner in my book.
Nikki: Thank you Ashley for taking the time to talk to me about your holiday ideas. They were all so wonderful!
Ashley: No problem, ask me again next year and I’m sure I’ll have more ideas up my sleeve.
There you have it Cheap Eater$, advice from a seasoned holiday chef. Ashley is a smart cookie when it comes to holiday spins on desserts and I thank her for sharing some of her unique ways of putting a little Christmas cheer into everyday meals. I hope you try some of these holiday food tricks for yourselves. As always, let us know what worked for you and what did not.