Gifts, Goodies and Greatest Hits

I have some new recipes, really I do! And some travels and adventures to share as well. And I have pictures, too. But as I am still in high gear work mode right now with some deadlines looming before the Christmas holiday, I think I’ll first take this opportunity to share these “greatest hits” of the season with you. May these favorites of mine inspire some holiday food and gift ideas for you to try until I can get back to the regularly scheduled programming.

I hope you all have enjoyed the holiday season so far, and may your days be merry and bright…and filled with good food, friends and family.

Cookies! For the cookie monster in us all.

Who doesn’t love cookies any time of year, but during the holidays they are a mandatory make and give. Starting from the top with these biscotti…this is the one thing I will try to get made before Christmas!

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. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…if I don’t make these for my husband every Christmas, I might as well find another place to live. I kid you not!

cookies smOld Fashioned Drop Sugar Cookies are a recipe that my mom used to make every year. They are the best I’ve ever had and fun to make by yourself, or with some little elves helping you to decorate! They have the added advantage of keeping well for a week or more in an airtight container.

crinkles2Chocolate Espresso Crinkle Cookies. I knew I had to try them the moment I saw Eva’s original recipe, and then Sawsan’s adaptation of Eva’s recipe that added some warm spices. They did not disappoint!

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.

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!

Maamool 4

Ma’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.

Toffee Bars are a wonderful gift to make and give to that special someone that you want to thank for all that they do. These were my gift to the Firemen who came to our house when it was struck by lightning. They are truly gift-worthy!

Hors d’Oeuvres, Noshes, Appetizers and Snacks

While I don’t snack during the day at all, I do love a good nosh with a glass of wine or a cocktail before dinner. Here are some of my faves to make as gifts and some more faves to make to serve.

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.

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.

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Two 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.

Bathed in that late afternoon cocktail glow.

These Artichoke Squares are truly a revival of a favorite. A throwback recipe, circa 1960 or so, that I’ve updated with some fresh ingredients. These are the perfect accompaniment to cocktails, are rich little bites and can be made ahead, frozen and then warmed as needed. What more can you ask for in an appetizer?

Drink and Be Merry!

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Cranberry 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.

Chai Tea Mix is fast and easy to make, and who doesn’t love a good hot cup of chai tea, any time of the year? Make your mix and package it in mason jars tied with pretty ribbon for a lovely hostess gift.

The Raindog

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Champagne Cocktail

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Christmas Dawn

My post wouldn’t be complete without a couple of my favorite cocktails to go with all of this food. Here are some classics, perfect for holiday entertaining. The Raindog is an easy variation on the classic martini, fortified with some fresh herbal essence and tasty olives. The timeless Champagne Cocktail will never go out of style and is easy to make for a crowd. And if you’ve also made the Cranberry Liqueur listed above, try out these Festive Holiday Cocktails for an extra Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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.

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

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

Rain Delays and Raindogs

Friday night plan:
Stay home. Grill out turkey burgers. Make potato salad. Dinner on the deck. Check.
Prepping sun dried tomatoes, shallots and basil for the burgers, mix well with the meat.
Roasting potatoes in the oven. Make the vinaigrette. Toss with the warm potatoes. Check.
Enter sudden darkness and KABOOM! It’s pouring, down and horizontally, rain.

Plan B:
Create a cocktail with the spouse to pass the time until, or if, grilling is possible, since after all, necessity is the mother of invention. Continue reading