Dec 13, 2008

Blog Advent Tour 2008 - Day 13

Image used under a creative commons license

I wasn't quite sure what to write for this year's tour at first, but since last year's seemed to be popular, I thought I'd start by sharing another Portuguese Christmas recipe. So here it goes:


(Don't ask me what this means; it's not a word I've ever seen used in another context. Formigas means ants, but I'm not sure if that's an association I want to make :P)

Ingredients (For about 6 servings):
  • 300 gr of sugar
  • 750 ml (around 3 cups) of milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ground cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 spoonfuls of honey
  • 1 spoonful of butter
  • 3 eggs
  • a medium-sized loaf of bread
1. Boil the milk, the lemon zest, the honey and the cinnamon stick for about 10 minutes.

2. Break the bread into small pieces and add them to the mix, along with the butter and the sugar.

3. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, stirring with a large wooden spoon. You have to make sure the bread is dissolving and the mixture is becoming uniform.

4. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

5. Add the three egg yolks, stir, and return to low heat for another 2 or 3 minutes.

6. Pour into a dish or bowl and decorate with ground cinnamon.

There! Another recipe with two of my favourite Christmasy flavours: lemon and cinnamon. I also like this recipe because it's one you can get creative with. Some people use orange instead of lemon zest, others add nuts, raisins, a chalice of Port, etc. Others use cake instead of bread. I've never tried it with cake, but I think it would work just fine as long as you use less honey and sugar.

One of my favourite things about the Advent Blog Tour so far has been reading about Christmas celebrations from around the world. So I thought I'd share a few facts about how Christmas is celebrated in Portugal:
  • Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas Day itself. It's on Christmas Eve that families gather and have their main Christmas meal.
  • The main dish is codfish, or in some parts of the country, octopus. (Eww. Not where I live, fortunately.) In any case, seafood is always involved. I think these days Turkey is being introduced, but when I was younger it was pretty much unheard of. My family has codfish in cream sauce, which is one of my favourite dishes.
  • Though some families open their presents on Christmas morning, I think most do it on the 24th after midnight (sometimes even earlier, if the family has small children).
  • The official end of the Holiday season is the 6th of January, Epiphany or Dia dos Reis. Though not as big a deal here as in Spain, it is still celebrated. King Cake is eaten (though not by me, because I hate the stuff :P) and in some areas you get carol singers going from door to door, singing a song or two in exchange for a monetary donation and sometimes a slice of cake. Because I live in one of those borderline not-quite-rural-but-not-yet-urban areas, I still get them from time to time, though less so in recent years.
  • It is only after Dia dos Reis that people taken down their Christmas trees and remove their decorations.

And because I have to admit that one of the best things about Christmas is the gifts, I have something for you, my lovelies. I'll draw two names from the comments, and the winners will get a homemade Christmas bookmark like the ones you see in the picture, as well as some surprise Christmas treats (read: chocolate :P)

Let me know in the comments if you'd like to be entered. I'll announce the winners tomorrow and mail the packages on Monday. I'll send anywhere in the world, but depending on where you are it's unlikely that it will arrive before Christmas. But it's never too late for chocolate, right? Or bookmarks.

Thanks to Kailana and Marg for putting this together! And don't forget to visit the rest of the tour stops:

13 December

Lisa from Book Ahoy

Suey from It's All About Books

14 December

Emily from Dreaming on the Job

Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic

Cindy from Nocturnal Wonderings

15 December

Natasha from Maw Books

Somewhere in Between

Wendy from Caribou's Mom

16 December

Strumpet from Strumpet's Life

Chris from Stuff as Dreams are Made on

Tammy from Omah's Helping Hand

17 December

3M from 1 More Chapter

Stine from The Washingtonium

Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness

18 December

Alex from Daemonwolf Books

Leya from Wandeca Reads

Julia's Book Corner

Hope is the Word

19 December

Laclau from Conversacions de Cafe

Krissi from The Swim Mom

Morgan from Insert Clever Name Here

20 December

Jessica from The Bluestockings Society

Naida from The Bookworm


Book Thingo

21 December

Rhinoa from Rhinoa's Ramblings

Melissa from Remember to Breathe

The Bluestocking Guide

22 December

Think Pink Dana

My Friend Amy

Nicole from Linus's Blanket

23 December

Jane from Janezlifeandtimes

Memory from Stella Matutina

Debbie from Friday Friends Book Blog

24 December

Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings

Kailana's Written World

Sherry at Semicolon


  1. Ooh, I get to be first. I've always wanted, somehow, to get into the whole Epiphany celebration, but I'm driven by the New Year, and I have to have everything down by then. I'd love to live in a place with a big Epiphany celebration, though.

    And I'll have to see about that recipe; I like lemon and cinnamon, but I'm not sure about them together...

  2. great idea, I love your bookmarks, so I'd like to be entered:D

    Somehow I missed this year's blog tour! ah year.

    Lovely post, I think I want to try that recipe, it sounds easy and yummi. I love cinnamon and lemon too. And that King Cake does look a bit dodgy, I don't think I'd like to eat it either lol

    That's strange about octopus being traditional. In my town is seafood in general as well, but it depends on what people like more I think. I love my mussels and vongole and all that, so my mum usually cooks them for me. She likes prawns and maybe squid, and octopus too. I don't mind it but it takes too long to chew!!! bleah.

    Italian traditional xmas cake is Panettone but I hate it, just like you hate the king cake. I like Pandoro much more but I'm not mad about it.

  3. That looks yummy! It has sort of a bread pudding-ness to it, and I love bread pudding.

    It's neat to read how cod plays such a part of a Portugese Christmas eve. I'm from Eastern Canada, and of course, the cod are severely depleted now. It's our shared history, how the Spanish and Portugese and French came over to settle here and fish the Grand Banks. It makes sense that the seafood is so important. We are big on chowders on Christmas Eve, lobster or just seafood.
    The codfish in cream sauce sounds really good. Maybe you'll post it next year? *crosses fingers hopefully* I love cod too.
    I'd love to have one of your blog famous bookmarks (I read Debi's post:)
    Merry Christmas Nymeth.

  4. Thanks for sharing about Christmas in Portugal!

  5. I had no idea you live in Portugal -- thanks so much for sharing the recipe and traditions! I'm of Portuguese descent, living in California, and I'm definitely going to try the formigas. We always had some sort of fish stew for Christmas Eve when I was a kid, usually with codfish and shellfish. As I became a family with my husband and kids, I've bowed to a few of my husband's traditions, like opening presents on Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve. But I must have my fish on Christmas Eve!

  6. That recipe sounds good! :] Wow, that is fascinating. I never heard of seafood being traditional Christmas dishes. Sounds like a feast for seafood lovers. :]

    Thanks for sharing about your home country. I learned something new today.

  7. fun post nymeth, the recipe sounds yummy :)
    lol...ormigas in spanish does mean ants!
    your recipe does sound good, can't go wrong with cinnamon and honey.

    I do wait till after the Epiphany to take my tree down.
    Pretty bookmarks!

  8. My mom recently started our own Epiphany tradition. We go through the meaning behind the song "The 12 Days of Christmas," one verse each night. We will hang an ornament on a metal stand that represents each religious meaning to the gift given in the song. Usually on the 7th day of Christmas, we have my mom's parent's Christmas celebration. On Epiphany, we get one last Christmas gift, usually something we actually need, but nicer than what we'd just run out and get. The next day we start taking down the decorations. For us, Epiphany is a cool way to stretch out the Christmasness and get back to the real meaning for the festivities.

  9. It would be very nice to get one of your bookmarks! :)

    I have really enjoyed the posts this year, especially learning about other places and how they celebrate Christmas. Thanks for participating!

  10. The recipe looks scrumptious! Then again, anything with sugar and butter in it is probably a hit for me. Books with sugar and butter, anyone?

    Oh the way we celebrate Christmas here in the Philippines is somewhat similar to Portugal then. From the Christmas eve being more important than the day itself (we call it Noche Buena here or the midnight meal to celebrate Christmas, we do have Spanish influences given that we were occupied by Spain for 300+ years). Celebrations are extended I mean as far as stretching it to January, or until the feast of the Three Kings.

    Although if you look at houses here anywhere - be they the gated communities or just getting by - decorations almost always stay until uhm, someone actually remembers to take them out. Last year I visited a friend's house whose tree and all the decor was still up sometime February :)

    Lovely Christmas post. I should visit the other blogs now. I won't have connection by tomorrow for sure.

  11. mmmm, I will have to give this recipe to my baker husband to try.

  12. Yum! Another delicious sounding recipe. Thank you! Also, yes, I would love to be entered into the drawing for your booksmarks!!

  13. We have fish at Christmas as well, usually prawns as a starter (mmm prawns!).

    Thanks so much posting about your Christmas traditions in Portugal! Lovely post!

    I would love to be entered for the giveaway!

  14. Melissa: I actually love the two together, but you could always try orange or raisins or something else instead!

    Valentina: I think you can still join, actually! Marg and Kailana have said it's not too late :) The recipe really is easy, which is one of the reasons why I like it so much :P I like cooking and baking, but the complicated stuff tends to go wrong with me. I actually loathe both squid and octopus. I guess part of it is the idea of eating something with tentacles, but I've had squid and I really hated it :P The texture, the smell, the taste...the whole thing made me sick. About the cake, part of me is a little sad for hating something that's so traditional, but what can I do :P

    Raidergirl3: Yes, it is a lot like bread pudding! And yes, unfortunately we have a long history of overfishing cod. There are more regulations these days, but still not enough control. And I'd love to share that recipe next year! Merry Christmas to you too :)

    Kerri, you're welcome!

    Verbatim: Shellfish is popular too, especially in seaside towns. I think it's great that you still keep some of those traditions alive!

    Orchidus: Hi!! So great to hear from you! I'm really glad you enjoyed the post :)

    Naida: Portuguese and Spanish have a lot of vocabulary in common, even though the grammar and especially the phonology are really different. Ants are not something I want to think about while cooking, though :P

    Bookworm: That sounds very special :) Even though I'm not religious myself I've always liked epiphany. It's such a nice way to say goodbye to the holidays.

    Kailana: I've been really enjoying them so far as well! Thank you for doing this. It's such a nice bloggers Christmas tradition.

    Lightheaded: Books with sugar and butter? Sounds great :D The Feast of the Tree Kings - that's what Dia dos Reis means. Well, "day of the kings" literally, but it's the same. And lol, I know people who put off taking down their decorations too :P In a way it's funny, but at the same time it just feels wrong to see them so long after Christmas :P I hope the computer gets fixed quickly! Mine actually gave me quite a scare today, so I sympathize.

    Krissi, hope you like it!

    Robin, you're most welcome :)

    Marg, I'm glad you liked the post! And like I was telling Kailana, thank you so much for organizing this.

  15. The recipe looks good. I liked hearing about the christmas traditions there also. I'm glad that you posted yours early. I had forgotten about mine, but visited your blog this morning, and then remembered it was my day too when I saw your post. Great idea to give a gift with this. I would love to be entered. I'll have to do that next year.

  16. yay Portugal! :D
    I'm half Portuguese but I've never actually heard of this recipe. I'm going to make sure to write it down though because it looks delicious and all the Portuguese deserts I've ever tasted are pretty darn amazing, albeit not very good for me lol
    thanks for the recipe :D

  17. Ooh it does sound good! I made cinnamon brownies today so I'm just about cinnamon-ed out right now lol.

    Love the bookmarks. Very cute! Please enter me.

  18. My family celebrates Christmas Eve Filipino style (i.e. very loud), and I always wonder what our (Aussie) neighbours think of all the racket. Like you, we open our presents after midnight. Santa still visits my parents' house! *g*

  19. Thanks for the Christmas trip to Portugal. Fun!

    Pretty bookmarks too.

  20. Gosh, I wish there was more seafood at Christmas here. I heart seafood, well, maybe not *octopus* but, you know, other food...from the sea. Interesting how different Christmas traditions can be!

    Oh, and I really, really want a spiffy bookmark (and treats!)... yesIdo. Please enter me! =D

  21. Nymeth, what a lovely post! I enjoyed reading how you celebrate Christmas in Portugal...and the Formigos pic makes me want to eat it right now! LOL.

    Thanks for sharing with us! Yes, I'd love to enter the draw as well. Thanks so much, Nymeth! :D

  22. I've also really enjoyed hearing about everyone's holiday traditions; thanks for sharing yours! The formigos sounds good too, though I don't think I'd be able to make it without thinking of ants now. :)

  23. YAY! I love new recipes! I would love to be entered as well. Thanks for the info on Portugal!

  24. I love hearing how Christmas and other holidays are celebrated in different cultures. Thanks for sharing your Portuguese Christmas.
    When I was a child we always used to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas too, getting one more gift then, and left the tree up until Ukrainian New Years in mid-January.

    The recipe sounds good, I love both cinnamon and lemon although I'm not sure that I've ever had them together before.
    And I'd love to be entered in your draw.

  25. I really enjoyed reading this post and all the responses about different Christmas traditions around the world. The recipe looks so unique and delicious!

  26. Great post! I was just thinking today that I wish we (meaning here in the US) celebrated more through January 6th... and less beforehand.

    Oh, and of course enter me in the drawing! :)

  27. Yum! I'm so making this! And I'm totally going to tell people when they ask what it is that it's ants :p So if I put raisins in it, how much do you think I should put?? It reminds me a lot of bread pudding which we make down here all of the time, but with some extra exotic flavors!

    I loved reading your Christmas traditions so much! It seems odd having codfish on Christmas, but then you mentioned that it's weird having turkey on Christmas! I completely love seeing how different cultures celebrate different things. It's so intriguing. And I got all excited when you said y'all eat king cake! But then I clicked on the link and saw that it's not the same as the New Orleans king cake. I'm going to have to ship you one of ours during Mardi Gras! It's basically like kind of sweet bread with colored sugar on top :p I'm sure you'd like that one! The Portuguese culture and the New Orleans culture seem to have quite a bit in common so I thought maybe it was the same thing. I know we borrowed a lot from your architecture!

    I enjoyed this post so much Nymeth! Thanks :)

  28. How wonderful! What a fun recipe, and it's always neat to learn more about other cultures. I'm with Chris-I'm definitely making this soon. And New Orleans King Cake is very yummy. :D

  29. I'd love to be included in the draw, even though I'm scooting in here a bit late ;-)

    Very cool recipe. One of my dearest friends, who lives in Toronto, is a first-generation Canadian of Portugese parents. Their family still has half of their body still standing in Portugal! I'm certain she would have formigos during the holidays. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  30. Oh Nymeth, a real Portugese recipe to try! and yum, I love lemon and cinnamon too, I'll let you know when we try it. I definitely will be! thank you! and for some of your traditions - I'm with you on octopus - though I do love calamari, that's because I can ignore the tentacles! We open our presents on Christmas day after breakfast! though this seems to be a tradition not so many follow now, from bloggers stories here on the advent tour.
    and please of course put me down for your bookmarks (what a perfect treat for book lovers!) and yum, chocolate.....thank you for being so sweet and thoughtful, for being a blogger and becoming a friend in this past year. You are as necessary to me as a book, now! :-D Merry Christmas to you and your family, and in 48 hours I'll be on your side of the world!

  31. Sounds like an interesting recipe - I'll definitely have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing. :)

  32. LOL--I'm eventually going to have to get a converter so that I know how much 300 gr of sugar is! All of my grandmother's treasured recipes use metrics, and I've never been able to quite get them right. This does sound delicious--I love lemon as well!

    I loved that you posted some of your traditions for us. There is one story in the Sedaris books I read that talks about the different customs around the world and I find it so fascinating. He mentioned that most Europeans celebrate on the 24th (that's when we have our "special" dinner).

    Merry Christmas, Nymeth! If it's not too late, I'd love to entered (just got back into town).

  33. Book Lover Lisa: I'm glad to have reminded you! I loved reading your post :)

    Steph: Portuguese cuisine does have great desserts :D Not very healthy, granted, but oh well :P I hope you enjoy this one :D

    Ladytink: I firmly believe that there is no such thing as too much cinnamon, ever :P

    Kat: I like opening them after midnight a lot :) I guess it makes Christmas day itself a little less exciting, but there's just something about waiting for midnight.

    Chris, glad you enjoyed it!

    Megan: I'm actually not the biggest fan of seafood, but cod is the main excepting. And it's interesting, isn't it? I love learning about different traditions.

    Melody, I'm really glad you enjoyed the virtual tour!

    Memory: lol! I really shouldn't have said that, should I? I don't think I can get rid of the association now either :P

    Michellekae: You're welcome!

  34. tanabata: I didn't know about Ukrainian New Years being in mid-January! I really love hearing about different traditions as well. In fact, I should get myself a "Christmas around the World" book...I'm sure several of those exist. I actually really really love cinnamon and lemon together! I know it sounds odd, but several Portuguese Christmas recipes mix the two, and to me it works really well :)

    Ali: I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Suey: I like extending the Christmas cheer for a little longer. Last year I was studying abroad and I had to leave home on the 3rd of January... I was surprised with how much I missed those extra days of Christmas!

    Chris: lol! I hope you like it, and that nobody is discouraged from eating it :P I'm actually the worst person in the world to ask about quantities, because I always disregard measurements and just use what "looks right". So...a handful? :P And that's so interesting about the similarities between Portuguese culture and New Orleans...I wonder if the French have to do with it? It's shameful that I don't know enough history to be able to explain it, but alas, I don't :P

    Eva: I hope you like it! And New Orleans King Cake does sound good! For me, the problem with ours is all the nuts and crystallized fruit...two things I'm not a fan of.

    Julia: Still not too late! I will announce and contact the winners in the evening. I'm glad you liked the recipe :)

    Susan: Hope you like it! I guess calamari are not as bad as actual squid, but still, the smell is enough to put me off. And awwww, thank you! "As necessary as a book" is one of the best compliments I can think of :D

    Jessi, I hope you like it!

    Trish: argh, I'm sorry about that! I should have thought of converting it. I think it's about 10.5 ounces? Like I was telling Chris, I'm bad at following quantities anyway. I think the original recipe for this uses more, but I don't like it too sweet. You know, I actually think I remember a story like that from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. If it's the same one I'm thinking of (and I remember reading that some of the stuff on Holidays on Ice had been published elsewhere), it's indeed a great one. And no, not too late! Merry Christmas to you too, dear Trish :)

  35. No worries--if nothing else I could probably google the quantities. LOL--not even sure how ounces translates to cups. :) I believe the story is called Six to Eight Black Men. Sedaris is having a conversation with a Dutch gentleman about the different customs. So, that actually reminds me. What does your rooster say?? :) I had meant to ask that at the end of my post--what everyone's rooster says (because it comes up in the book), and I forgot....

  36. Thanks for sharing Nymeth = cod in a cream sauce sounds lovely! ;-) Sorry I missed your post on the day itself, it was my bday and we were off to Germany to visit some Christmas markets. So beautiful! :-) Happy Holidays to you!

  37. Thanks for a great and informative post. I have a couple of Danish/Portuguese friends here in Denmark, but never thought to ask them about their Xmas-food and celebrations. And thanks for writing the recipe in the metric system ;-) Makes it easier for me to bake. LOL. Actually, I am a rather good cook, but never really got around to be a good baker. I practically never bake. The "ant" cake looks wonderful though but perhaps it is too difficult for a beginner like me ;-)

  38. Trish: Yep, that one's also in the book I read! Over here, roosters go có-có-ró-có-có :P

    Joanna: Happy belated birthday! I love German Christmas markets. Well, I haven't actually been to one in Germany, but last year when I was in England there was one in every town. They were called German Christmas Markets and had mulled wine and gingerbread and all that :P Manchester has a bunch of them...they were such fun.

    Bogsider: lol, you're welcome :P I always have to convert quantities in recipes online, though most of the time I never follow the details anyway. This recipe is actually really easy to make! It's one of those things that are hard to get wrong. And believe me, I'd know, because whatever can go wrong while cooking or baking will go wrong with me :P

  39. LOL--"có-có-ró-có-có" is better than our "cock-a-doodle-do" Oh goodness. I think I'm definitely going to have to ask that on a blog posting.

  40. Ohhh thanks for sharing/posting your recipes of Portuguese Christmas! Sound good :)

    I wish you and your family a Happy Holidays!

  41. Trish, do post about it! I bet that seeing the different answers from all over the world will be lots of fun :D

    Julia, thank you and likewise :)

  42. Great post! The recipe sounds yummy-it has a lot of my favorite ingredients in it. I may have to give a try. Thanks for sharing some of your Christmas traditions with us, that was great. I used to be friends with a girl from Portugal and spent a few Christmas Eve's with them and absolutely remember all the seafood! For us, we don't take down our tree until after Ukrainian Christmas which is Jan 7. We used to wait until the New Year on the 14th but we changed it up last year.

  43. lemon cinammon ant cake?! erm, well it looks tasty anyway! maybe i'll try it! thanks ;)

  44. Oh Nymeth, what a perfectly lovely post! I really want to try the recipe. Is it something that is only made at Christmas time?

    And I loved hearing about how Christmas is celebrated in Portugal! Though I have to admit, I think the whole idea of a traditional Christmas Eve Octopus made me a bit queasy. ;) We always have our big meal on Christmas Eve, too, but we have turkey not codfish. And my mom always tries to get everyone to open all our presents Christmas Eve, but we're usually able to hold her off...she's such a little kid when it comes to presents! :) How very cool that you sometimes get carolers! I've always thought that was a beautiful tradition, and I wish it was still alive and well here. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing, Nymeth...I really, really enjoyed reading about Christmas in Portugal! And I hope you are enjoying the season, though like we've said it's a very different sort of Christmas this year! Love you!

  45. That looks so yummy. sorry, got behind on Advent Tour, playing catch up.

    Happy Holidays!

  46. Dar: Ukranian Christmas sounds really unique too! Well, every celebration is unique, of course, but I love learning about the ones you don't hear so much about.

    Mariel: I really shouldn't have mentioned the ants, should I? :P

    Debi, glad you enjoyed it :D Octopus in general makes me queasy, so I totally understand. I love carollers too. It's actually been a few years since I've seen any...I hope the tradition hasn't died out. And yes, it will be a different Christmas, but there will be thinks about it to be remembered how my dear friend Debi so patiently put up with me :P

    Vickie, Happy Holidays to you too!

  47. I won a trip to Portugal as a wine blogger in late Oct/early November--what a wonderful country! I loved the cuisine & of course the wine. I was most amazed at all the delicious ways I enjoyed the octopus! I liked the saltcod dishes as well. I'm not sure if I tried this dessert but now that you've provided the recipe I will have to try and make it! I will probably write about it on my blog and will link to you when I do. Thanks!

  48. artpredator, I'm glad you enjoyed your time here! Good luck with the recipe :)


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