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.


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.


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.


42 thoughts on “A Holiday Round-Up: Some Sweet, Petite and Neat

  1. Betsy the girls and I just made the ma’ amools on the weekend using your recipe — I was going to email you! They had so much fun whacking the molds and shaping the balls. I was surprised how well they did making them to be honest. I think they will be the only kids in their class making them for the holidays! Ii highly recommend them. This roundup is full of great ideas. Thanks for a great year of inspiration!


    • Barb, I’m so excited that you and the girls made these. All I could think when I made them is how much fun kids would have with the shaping and the whacking the dough out of the mold! 🙂 Not to mention that they are delicious. I’m so glad I’ve inspired you this year and you have inspired me so much as well. I’m looking forward to another year of inspiration and hopefully more time to explore making bookmarked recipes in 2013!


  2. Thanks for gathering up all the goodies. So many interesting things to choose from. I guess I would start out with nibbling on some Provençal Olives while I read the rest of your post links. Have a super week. BAM


  3. I found you thanks to Cecilia, at the Kitchen’s Garden and I see that a few of my other blog acquaintances are here as well. Not surprised. Your Holiday-Round-Up is the perfect introduction to your blog too, since it invites me to discover delicious recipes. I cannot keep this to myself however. I’ll be sending you more company! Enjoy your Holidays!


    • Hi Granny and thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your wonderful compliments and comments. This was a good post to have as an introduction for sure, and now I’m excited to go and see your blog and what I’ve been missing. Happy Holidays to you!


  4. What a great line-up, Betsy. Makes me feel like such a slacker. I need to get out and find some great bottles like you found for your cranberry liquor. If I can get a batch of liquor made, I won’t feel so bad about the things I haven’t finished. How did you put it? Oh, yes. “Hic.” 🙂


    • Hey John, I found those bottles at the Container Store if you guys have one of those in Chicago. I’ve seen them in better cooking stores and sometimes in Target, too. Thanks for your great comment, but do not let your heart be troubled…this is an idea line-up from a whole year. Believe me, I haven’t made all of this so far this season, just wishful thinking. 🙂


  5. Great round up Betsy, I loved your Cranberry Liqueur last year, glad it made the list this year. Is started a little late in my baking and now that we’re in full swing, I keep adding things to the list which is putting me further and further behind. This is not helping, Betsy 😉


    • Thanks, Eva! I didn’t know you made the Cranberry Liqueur last year! It’s good stuff. Mine will get made after the holiday this year because I didn’t get it started soon enough. 😦 I know what you mean about adding things. I just made your chocolate espresso crinkles with Sawsan’s spices added this evening…truly an awesome cookie! Love the texture and now it’s a new fave. My only problem with them is that they’re too easy to eat! 🙂


    • Thanks Jed! Those biscotti are killer, and I have to time making them so that my husband gets his fill, but there are still some to take to my mom at the end of the week. My only problem with them is not eating them all myself! 🙂


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  7. Betsey, I checked out the Honey recipe and notice that you said chill it…chilling honey is not usually recommended. How would it do not to chill it? Chilling often causes the honey to crystalize. I’m curious. BTW I love the photo of the owl your husband took in the recipe post about the honey! He’s a beautiful owl. We have a great horned one that comes around and we hear it too – only see it on occasion though. Interested to know what you think about NOT chilling this recipe. Thanks and Merry Christmas!


    • Linda, the original recipe in Bon App suggested chilling it for longer term storage and here is why I think they did that. First, it combines olive oil with the honey, so it isn’t pure honey. My honey didn’t crystalize because of the oil, I guess, which separates when cooled and forms a seal similar to wax. Also you are adding organic elements in the form of the fresh thyme and the dried chili, which, if exposed to water or if they create humidity within the sealed bottle or jar at room temperature for any length of time without being pasteurized, can cause botulism. This recipe only keeps one month in the fridge. You must bring it back to room temp and stir to reincorporate the oil with the honey. So while it is called walnut thyme honey, it is actually something a bit different because of the oil. I found that bringing it to room temp and then refrigerating the leftover was okay for up to a month. We had a pair of those owls in the yard this year in early fall. Now we don’t see them, just hear them late at night! 😉 Thanks so much for your comment/questions and I hope this makes sense. For sure you know more about honey than I do! 🙂 And a very Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!


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