25 Holiday Favorites (food, gifts, and more)

Sitting around the dinner table last night with a group of friends, I asked the question “what was their favorite Christmas tradition?” Each of our answers were different, some sad, different, untraditional, while others were filled with magnificent memories of music, signing carols, and even scavenger hunts to find their presents. Remembering my own childhood Christmas traditions and how they differ from everyone else at the table, I want to share some ideas for bringing people together over the holiday season. 

For me, this gathering is part of what makes Christmas, and every other wintertime holiday, magical. It is the communal hot drinks, walking together through decorated streets and public spaces, and simply spending time together celebrating that creates that sense of seasonal joy and cheer. I can live without fairytale snowfalls (although let’s be honest, they are pretty magical) as long as some of these other things happen. It’s a good thing too – there is very little Narnia-esque snowfall in Southern California!

Ashley and I love sharing our favorite things with you each month. This month we want to share our favorite holiday treats, sweets, activities, and presents. Hopefully it will give you some great last minute holiday shopping ideas!

Favorite Holiday Gifts 
1. I just got one of these personalized stamps from Paperpastries! It gives a great personal touch to any letter or gift!

2. As a cook, I need to keep my hair back and out of my face AND the food! The hair ties are the perfect solution! Must be why they are called The Perfect Hair Ties !



3. Beautiful Wreaths! No, not like the Mindy Project’s Wreath Witherspoon

Emblem Flowers, a local Los angles floral shop headed by Charmaine Chen creates some amazing masterpieces and beautiful wreaths.  Find a local florist in your area who can teach you how to make your own holiday wreath, which makes for a great gift.

4. Cutting boards are kitchen essentials, so why not make sure they are beautiful and effective?

Hardwood Creations has beautiful handcrafted cutting boards. Here is a list of a few more retailers who make exquisite cutting boards.:

Holiday Activities 
5. Going to Holiday Markets like the Renegade Craft Fair, Unique LA, and Artisanal LA just to name a few! Also, thank you Artisanal LA


6. Walking where you can see the lights – here in Pasadena, Christmas Tree Lane is pretty amazing! Here are some other cities that have great lights…see if your city is on the list.

 Our Favorite Holiday Music:

7-10. We love Songza! For those who don’t know, it is a music app that allows you to listen to musical playlists based on mood.  Here are some of our top Holiday mixes and another favorite Holiday album.  Listen to them while you are baking cookies.

  • Choral Christmas – for the old-timer in me.
  • Classic Christmas Hits – because who could celebrate without them?
  • Merry Indie Christmas – to mix things up a little.
  • The Christmastime Blues – a little soul for cold nights.

11. Another favorite is Page CXVI, here is a sample of their Advent to Christmas album.  Please click here to buy their album and continue to support great artists.

Our Favorite Books to read during the holidays:

12. The Pollan Family Table

13. The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’Engle – she is my favorite, so anything she wrote, yes.

14.  Potter books 1 & 4 by J. K. Rowling – truly magical descriptions in the Christmas chapters

Favorite Holiday Movies

15. White Christmas – got. to.

16. The Santa Claus – that moment when he and Charlie arrive at the North Pole? I so wanted to be with them in the sleigh.

17. Love Actually – the annual tradition for Ashley and her husband.

18. It’s a Wonderful Life.– My dad’s favorite.  It is a great reminder of how our life is truly meaningful.

Holiday Drinks

19. Sipping Chocolate from Amara (local to Pasadena, CA)-but keep scrolling down to make your own at home.

20. Trader Joe’s Holiday Teas (both Vanilla & Cinnamon/Candy Cane Lane)

21. Cosmopolitans – classy Christmas colors and yum

22. Since you live all over, we want you to have great hot chocolate too!  Here you go. Alsco, look for a local Chocolatier in your area for sipping chocolate, or make a trip to Pasadena, CA!
Hot Chocolate
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
It can have other added flavors, like peppermint. This recipe is Gluten and Corn Free.
Recipe type: Hot Drinks
Serves: 1
  • 1 C. Milk (you can use almond milk or coconut milk)
  • ¼ C. Baking Coco (equal exchange)(ground carob)
  • 1 tsp. homemade vanilla (tag)
  • 2 tablespoons Raw Sugar Cane (Honey or agave work well too)
  1. Place Milk in a saucepan on the stove on Med-High Heat
  2. Heat for 2 min.
  3. Add remaining ingredients
  4. whisk
  5. Turn down the heat
  6. continue stirring
  7. once all ingredients are mixed together, pour in a cup
  8. top with whipped cream or a dash of cinnamon

23. Rachel Ray’s Kale and White Bean Soup – literally my go-to soup, and so so easy for a warm colorful soup.

24. Shortbread – I have a gf/cf version coming soon!  

25. My mom’s cinnamon coffee cake…this is the original version without dietary substitutions. Substitute greek yogurt for the sour cream and use your favorite gluten free flour blend. Click here for the recipe from Taste of Home.

Bonus:  My favorite thing about the holidays is Vacation and time off!

Next week we will have a daily posts by Lindsey Wright from Dear Wilderness: Exploring Beauty, Wellness, and Balance

Happy Holidays from Elizabeth, Ashley, and Mary Lee Kitchen!

By | 2016-05-17T09:46:10+00:00 December 18th, 2014|Categories: Blog, Corn Free, Gluten Free, Recipes|Tags: , , , , |2 Comments

About the Author:

At Mary Lee Kitchen, we believe that what we eat matters. Each of us has the right to know what is in our food. Over the years the food industry has negatively impacted our health and well being. This has caused the rise of food allergies, food sensitivities, rise in child obesity- which are just a few of the harmful side effects of the food manufactures created. It is time for us to implement change. I am a food artisan that creates allergy free products that are made in a sustainable way. Through my own experience with rare food allergies, I have learned how to cook in a way that is inclusive for all diets. Through food education, recipes, and products I support the gathering of all people around the kitchen table.


  1. Chantal Vechambre December 20, 2014 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Very nice post indeed… I am in Toronto and sounds the Christmas spirit is the same as in LA! Good cakes, hot chocolate, carols…. And Love Actually is my favorite movie now… And I watch “White Christmas” last year for the first time at the same period… And I was in San Diego for Christmas 3 years ago, and love it of course… Santa without the cold and the snow, an unique Christmas HOHOHO… Happy Holidays Elisabeth!

    • maryleekitchen December 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Happy Holidays to you too! From, the Mary Lee Kitchen Team

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