A Holiday Round-Up: Some Sweet, Petite and Neat

wpid-IMG_20111225_083829.jpgFourteen days and counting! Are you ready yet?

We all have our favorite traditional holiday treats and gifts that we like to make each year. And as each holiday approaches, I see so many more things I want to try my hand at making, but usually end up falling short of getting to them in addition to my usual baking…and before I run out of time and energy. This will be one of those years I imagine. However, I will be posting some items for you next week that are new in this year’s baking line-up.

Meanwhile, let me share a round-up of food and drink that I think you might enjoy this holiday season—the sweet, the savory and the in-between. Below are some of my very favorite traditional holiday baking, entertaining and gift-giving recipes from this blog, many of which can be made ahead, frozen or are just plain quick and easy. Cheers!

biscottiA-1Chocolate Hazelnut and Ginger Biscotti are perhaps the most addictive cookies ever known to man or woman. These truly decadent biscotti have the perfect dry texture combined with savory hazelnuts, spicy candied ginger and melty semi-sweet chocolate surprises in every bite. If I don’t make these for my husband every Christmas, I might as well find another place to live.
I’m not kidding.

cookiesgreen

readytobake2Old Fashioned Ice Box Cookies are so easy to make ahead and wonderful to freeze, then have on hand to slice, bake and decorate a few whenever you need or want them. Prettily packaged, they make a sweet gift as well.

almonds1R2olives4Glazed Red Pepper and Fennel Almonds are a hit with everyone and won’t last long at a party…or in your home in general. They’re a most welcome gift for a cocktail nibble or appetizer, and a few sprinkled atop a green salad with some fruit are a lovely way to enjoy them, too. You’ll also find these savory Provençal Olives in this post. They keep well for about a month or so, and make a great hostess gift. These two together as appetizers or tapas are a dynamic duo.

Mmmm. These Glazed Apple, Walnut and Oatmeal cookies are to die for! Mmmmuuuuaaaah ha ha ha ha!

Sweet Cider Glazed Apple, Walnut and Oatmeal Cookies have festive flavors and aren’t quite as heavy as some cookies…so you can eat more than one, not that I can only eat one anyway!

bottles2Cranberry Liqueur is the perfect gift and keeps at room temperature for a year. There’s still time to get a batch made for holiday giving or New Year’s tippling. Be sure to make some while fresh cranberries are still available.

Maamool 4Ma’amool is a Middle Eastern treat in the form of a fruit or nut stuffed semolina cookie that is molded into beautiful shapes. They taste as good as they look, too! No mold? No worries. You can seal them and decorate with the tines of a fork.

jarsfinal1This Walnut Thyme Honey is just amazing drizzled over cheese for a quick and impressive appetizer. Needless to say, it makes a lovely gift.

wholeplateMy Retro Cheese and Olive Bites make a “can’t believe how good these are” do-ahead-and-freeze appetizer to bake when needed, then serve or give away. They are truly addictive, so be sure to make enough for yourself and some to share. Also in this same post are the equally fabulous make-ahead-and-freeze Bacon Wrapped Dates with Pistachios and Apricots.

finishedcrabcakes2tomatoes3Two more lively appetizers for entertaining are found in another post: Mini Crab Cakes with Lemon Chive Aioli and Goat Cheese and Fresh Basil Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes. While the crab cakes take a little work, they can be made ahead and frozen, then rewarmed when needed. And the stuffed tomatoes are just too darn easy and good to be ignored. Seasonal colors, too.

finished puddingNeed something for a holiday brunch? Our all-time favorite dish for Christmas Eve or morning is this absolutely divine Ham, Fontina and Spinach Bread Pudding. You can make it the night before and bake it when you need it. It reheats well and will become your fave, too, I guarantee it.

breadpuddingWhat’s that? Want something a bit lighter and healthier, or dare I say vegetarian, before the big holiday bash? This savory Butternut Squash, Kale and Parmesan Bread Pudding is just the ticket. All the festive flavor and a lot less of the fat.

champagnecocktail2

cocktails1And to wash it all down, you’ve got to have a sparkling drink! For those holiday toasts, this Champagne Cocktail would do quite nicely. And if you’ve make the Cranberry Liqueur listed above, try out these Festive Holiday Cocktails for a Happy New Year.

A Year Ago…

What makes one start a blog? There are so many answers to that question that it boggles the mind.

For some, it’s a way to express their passion about what they enjoy doing most. For others, it’s a means to an end in pursuit of a writing career. And maybe for all of us, it’s a way to reach out of the loneliness that our human existence can sometimes have, and share common interests and conversation, while learning a thing or two in the process. Whatever one’s reason may be for starting a blog, the end result is exposing yourself to a whole new world. And that’s actually what I like about it the most! Continue reading

Day Tripping: Mountains, a Winery and a Picnic

Lovely Dicks Creek Falls at the juncture of Waters Creek and Dick’s Creek in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

As I’ve alluded to before, we’ve had a rather turbulent Spring around here thus far which has resulted in a few blips on my blogging radar, as well as generating a pervasive feeling of constantly playing catch-up. After returning to town last week, I found myself extremely busy with a hundred things to do on my plate and by the time the weekend approached, I had begun to feel the need to get away from it all for a few hours and recharge the emotional batteries. What better way to do that than a little day trip, I ask you? Continue reading

Holiday Cordials and Cocktails

The first of my Cranberry Liqueur was ready on Sunday and I was very excited to see how my spice experiment worked out, plus try some new and old cocktail recipes featuring the liqueur that you can make or share with your gift. Here’s how it all went: Continue reading

Cranberry Cordial

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The four amigos, all sealed up and ready for the cure.

It’s that time of year again…time to start the gift making in earnest, and for the past 2 years I’ve made batches of homemade liqueurs for friends and family, namely Cranberry and Orangecello. Decoratively bottled, handmade liqueurs make wonderful gifts, will keep at least a year (if not used up well before that) and are really fun to make. Continue reading

Birthday in Highlands

First I will say that Saturday was my birthday and my dear husband gave me a new camera, so you can evolve with me as I figure out how to use it and (hopefully) make better pictures than we’ve seen thus far. Yes, I confess it…all my photos were taken with a phone up to this point!

So, back to my birthday…we live within 2 hours of a gorgeous mountain area called Highlands, North Carolina, and since the first day of October was a stunningly beautiful fall day in the south—complete with very cool fall temps—we decided to go there to celebrate. (Lucky me!) Continue reading

King of the Smoothie

A Pineapple-Orange-Banana Smoothie made by the King.

My husband is usually the grill master and sous chef around here, but in addition to that he does make some mean breakfast items on his own, and amongst the best of the best are his smoothies. There’s been a strawberry-banana-orange, a blueberry-orange with cinnamon, and a peach with cinnamon, just to name a few. But he’s outdone himself with the latest one: Pineapple-Orange-Banana. All hail to the King of Smoothies! Continue reading

Virginia really is for Lovers…of Life, Food, Wine and Nature

A pastoral setting, to say the least.

First, forgive me for the lack of posting for a while. This is truly the longest I’ve gone between posts since I started this blog. Work deadlines are the main culprit, and being out of town…and more work deadlines. Reality sets in, folks, but I am back! And I have lots to share with you. So sit back and read my story about taking a little trip to Virginia.

A dear girlfriend of mine and her husband have a lovely home on a farm in Afton, Virginia, and last weekend I flew up for my first visit and a girls’ weekend. Little did I know what a fun, tasty, adventurous and beautiful interlude lay ahead. Continue reading

Confessions of a Cookbook Addict

I am a cookbook-a-holic.

There, I’ve said it out loud…well, sort of. I know many of us have lots of cookbooks and/or love to read them, but I’ve kind of taken it to the extreme. In fact, they are running me out of the house.

My unorganized reading table of cookbooks, food mags and Ree Drummond's new book.

Sure, I have my favorites, and they rotate sometimes. I have some very old ones, hand me down ones and some found at yard sales. I have some by famous chefs, some by famous cooks, some from other countries and some from little churches, schools and Junior Leagues. And In addition to the ones I own, I’ve read a bunch that I checked out from the library. It’s like some kind of a jones or something, every now and then…mostly now…I have cravings to read a new cookbook, essay or magazine about food like others have cravings to eat some chocolate. What can I say? I’m kinda weird that way. Continue reading

words, no pictures

Yesterday was supposed to be a celebratory day. It was my friend’s birthday, and we had lunch together at a great new local restaurant. Later that evening, my husband and I had been invited to the home of more friends—some we don’t see often enough—for a dinner party, and I was making a peach crisp to take for dessert. Continue reading