A Foodie’s Guide to the Winter Holidays

By Kat Brown, ASU Nutrition student

Holidays in Arizona, is there anything better? Enjoy sunny perfect weather in Southern Arizona and then zip up North to get your fill of snow, skiing, and hot cocoa. What better way to spend your holiday than traveling around and getting your fill of all the holiday cheer. My favorite events are centered on food, and luckily there are plenty to choose from! Check out the best events this holiday to get your taste of holiday cheer.


Gingerbread Village

Prescott, AZ

Located at the Prescott Resort this attraction features over 100 gingerbread houses and is free to enjoy! The event remains open all day every day so that you can enjoy the show at your leisure. Gingerbread cookies are available for kids to create their own gingerbread masterpiece. If you want to put your homemaking skills to the test try this blueprint:


Christmas Gingerbread


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup light molasses or dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons water

For assemblage and decoration:

Melted white chocolate or Royal Icing (recipe follows)

Gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired


Royal Icing:

1 pound (3-3/4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy

1 to 2 large egg whites, or substitute 4 teaspoons packaged egg whites and 1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon almond extract, vanilla or lemon juice



Gingerbread House:

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut out the following paper patterns for the gingerbread house template:

Two rectangles, 3 by 5 inches, to make the front and back of the house. Two rectangles, 3 by 5 1/2 inches for the roof. Two pieces for the ends of the house, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom. Four smaller rectangles, 1 1/2 by 1 inch for the roof and sides of the entryway. And one piece, 2 inches wide at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom for the front of the entryway.

Roll gingerbread dough out to edges on a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place paper patterns onto the rolled out dough. With a sharp, straight edged knife, cut around each of the pieces, but leave pieces in place.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until dough feels firm.

Place patterns on top of the gingerbread again and trim shapes, cutting edges with a straight-edged sharp knife. Leave to cool on baking sheet.

Place royal icing into pastry bag with a writing tip and press out to decorate individual parts of house, piping on decorations, windows, door, etc., as desired. Let dry until hardened.

Glue sides, front and back of house together at corners using royal icing. Place an object against the pieces to prop up until icing is dry (it only takes a few minutes).

Glue the two roof pieces to the pitched roofline of the house. Then, similarly, glue the sides and roof of the entryway together with icing. Attach the entryway to the front of the house.

Continue decorating the house, gluing on gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired.

Royal Icing:

Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric hand mixer, until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag with a writing tip. Add more lemon juice, if necessary.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gingerbread-house-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Gingerbread Facts:

  • Gingerbread is a flavor that is created from a combination of honey, molasses, and ginger instead of sugar. A variety of baked goods can be made from gingerbread including cookies, cakes, biscuits, and of course houses!
  • Nuremberg, Germany is considered the Gingerbread Capital of the World
  • The tradition of making gingerbread houses began in the 1800s.
  • For more fun facts check out the Fill Your Plate Blog “Gingerbread: Little Known Facts”

 Chocolate Lover’s Walk

Cottonwood, AZ

December 2015 marks the 22nd annual chocolate lover’s walk in Cottonwood. The city center consists of shops and restaurants that participate in the event and in total over 30 gourmet chocolates will be showcased. The event is preceded by a holiday parade and followed by a festive light show. The Arizona Republic reported that Cottonwood, located in Verde Valley wine country, has become a culinary hot spot in Arizona. So don’t just go for the chocolate, take a culinary journey through historic Cottonwood.

Tamales and Heritage Festival

Tucson, AZ

This celebration is a collaborations between Casino Del Sol Resort and Food City that showcases the tamales from the Southwest & Mexico.

Tamales are a traditional dish in the Mesoamerican region that is made up of Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. Traditionally a tamale is made from a starchy corn based dough called masa and steamed in a corn husk. Tamales come in many varieties and can be stuffed with the ingredients of your choice. They are often filled with meat, cheese, vegetables, and even fruit. If you think you can wow Tucson with your homemade tamale then submit your application for this festival and show off your skills. If you’ve never made a tamale try this easy recipe to get started!


7 cups fresh corn kernels, from 7 ears

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 tablespoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup harina de maiz (dried corn flour) *

20 dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes*



  • Working in batches, add the corn kernels to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.


  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale. Add the egg, salt, and baking powder. Mix to incorporate. Add the flour and pureed corn and mix until blended and forms a loose smooth dough.


  • Put a corn husk lengthwise in front of you with the wide side closest to you. Spread 3 tablespoons of the dough all over the bottom half (wide side) of the corn husk, leaving about a 1-inch-wide border on the left and right sides. Pick up the 2 long sides of the corn husk and bring them together. Roll both sides of the corn husks in the same direction over the filling.


Repeat with remaining corn husks and dough. Arrange the tamales, seam side down, in a steamer and add 1/2-inch of water. Cover with a tight fitting lid, bring to a simmer and steam for 1 hour, adding additional water, as needed to maintain 1/2-inch of water in the pan. Remove the tamales from the steamer to a serving platter and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Marcela Valladolid

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/easy-corn-tamales-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Las Noches de Las Luminarias

Tempe, AZ

This annual event is one of my favorite can’t miss events of the year. Each December the Desert Botanical Gardens lights their paths with over 8,000 luminarias. Each path leads to a unique artists and performance throughout the garden. Make it a full experience by purchasing the meal option where you can enjoy a full buffet featuring salads, tri-tip, gnocchi, chicken mole, and many more entree options. The buffet also includes a full dessert station and a variety of beverages including warm cider and hot cocoa. Make sure you swing by the Webster Auditorium to check out the nightly hand-bell ensembles that perform all the holiday classics. As if all of this wasn’t enough each year features a new and spectacular exhibit by a featured artist.

These events and others will truly give us a taste of the holidays. What better time to celebrate these special flavors!


Editor’s Note: Kat Brown is currently finishing her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at Arizona State University. She also completed a Child Nutrition Certificate that focuses on school lunch programs and policies. She completed her first bachelor’s degree in business and communication at ASU in 2009. She plans on pursuing her graduate degree in nutrition while completing her dietetic internship. She enjoys volunteering at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the Phoenix VA Health Care System, and St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix.


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