This weekend we attended our neighborhood block party. We had such a great time chatting with neighbors and voting on the best light decorations. Each couple was asked to bring their favorite holiday dessert, cookie or drink. I opted to bring hot apple cider and a bottle of amaretto (in case anyone wanted hard apple cider!). You can buy bottled apple cider at most grocery stores, but I never like to serve this cider straight from the bottle; the flavors are too muted. I use this hot apple cider recipe to spice up my store-bought cider. The cider was a big hit, even though it was only 75 degrees outside. As the first few cups were served and the scent of cider wafted through the gathering, more and more neighbors ventured over to help themselves to this much-loved holiday treat. Serve this at your next holiday party to get family and friends in the holiday mood!
If you are looking for some easy and delicious ways to tell a friend, neighbor or loved one that you are thinking about them during the holiday seasons, there is no better way to do so than with homemade baked goods. Easy enough to do on your own, but lots more fun if you have family or little helping hands with you, these five full-proof recipes and decorating ideas are sure to be a big hit. You only have to worry about having enough left over after taste-testing to give away! Continue reading
As a child in my household, come December, my first moment of morning wakefulness would be full of the tantalizing aroma of spiced apple cider. Though this concoction was potable, we rarely drank apple cider; instead, my mother simmered her stovetop spiced apple cider each day to fill our home with this pungent scent of the season. Spiced apple cider is an iconic fall and winter treat, and in our household it always reminds us that Christmas is near! The family recipe consists of readily available ingredients. Continue reading
Many years ago, my Aunt gifted me a jar of peppermint hot chocolate. That holiday season I drank several steaming mugs of hot cocoa, and a new passion for this refreshing, peppermint-and-chocolate combo was born. While delectable hot chocolate may be a “necessity” in any cold (or cool…) climate, in warmer climates, I find it difficult to consume hot beverages to my heart’s content. The only solution was to eat it instead in the form of Peppermint Bark! This homemade peppermint bark recipe is a wallet-friendly way to satisfy your holiday cravings, or you can package it to gift to friends, family, coworkers and your secret santa this holiday season. Continue reading
My family has a sweet tooth a mile-long, though we try not to give into it. The exception of course is during the holidays, when – as everyone knows – calories do not count. So for a mouth-watering treat, try making some fudge. By modifying a handful of traditional fudge recipes, I have prepared this easy, no-bake recipe and had excellent, chocolatey results every time. Homemade chocolate fudge is an excellent gift for friends, family, and neighbors anytime of year, but especially around the holidays when small gestures like this seem to mean so much. Continue reading
Americans love peanut butter; our taste buds and statistics prove it. We buy it often and outlay a pretty penny to consume it regularly. So, it seems odd to me that there is not a great deal of product variety readily available at the grocery store. There are several brand names that offer Smooth or Crunchy, traditional or natural; but you have to really drive around town to find flavored peanut butters. If you want a specialty peanut butter flavor, you should expect to spend some time hunting down a (small) local vendor and pay twice the amount of a national brand. Or – you can make your own delicious peanut butter that is healthier than most store bought brands and more affordable than a specialty product. Around the holidays, I like to make (and gift!) homemade honey cinnamon peanut butter. The recipe is simple and you can alter it to suit your taste. Continue reading
If you are looking for a warm, chocolate dessert or for a great homemade holiday gift, look no further. These Chocolate Crinkle Cookies are easy for anyone to bake and the ingredients make for a colorful and festive Gift in a Jar. Continue reading
Traditional flour, sugar and walnut cookies like the Italian Wedding Cookie are a staple in holiday festivities in many countries around the world. There are numerous variations on the recipes from the sugary sweetness to the extracts used (like almond, lemon and vanilla). Some variations that became popular with the success of the Hershey Kiss are the ‘Kiss Blossoms’ with a hershey kiss on top of the cookie and the ‘Hidden Kiss’ or ‘Secret Kiss’ cookies with a Hershey Kiss tucked inside. I prefer the Secret Kiss version because the kiss is baked inside the dough, giving the inside of the cookie a warmer, gooier feeling, which is heaven when combined with the flaky exterior of the more traditional Italian Wedding Cookie dough. It’s a delicious treat, suitable for cooks of all skill-level, and a fun way to let kids help out in the kitchen. Continue reading
There is something about the holidays that brings out the pastry chef in all of us. A friend of mine was inspired to make Reindeer Cake Pops for her son’s pre-K class holiday party, and ever-curious, I volunteered to discover how to do just that as her side-kick. Ever see those shining cake pops in the bakery rack at the pastry shop? They look perfect, like molded truffles. The icing coats are pristine smooth and the sticks well-embedded in the cake. After making a few dozen of these guys from scratch, and developing a steep learning curve in the process, it is very rewarding to feel like your homemade cake pops are verging on store-window perfect! Continue reading
The holiday season is upon us, a time for gathering together, thankfulness, and expressions of friendship and love. We have been invited to a neighborhood Thanksgiving Day celebration and though each family will bring a dish to contribute to the potluck affair, I never like to enter a private home, for any occasion, without providing the host/hostess a small token of my appreciation. Even if a host/hostess does not prepare every dish, he/she still has opened their home and has probably spent hours shoving clutter into closets and cleaning house. A nice way to provide a personal gesture of appreciation, without breaking the bank, is to make a Fall Hostess Gift in a Jar Recipe. My favorite this time of year is Oatmeal Spice Cookie Mix. Read on for the recipe, decorating tips and photos.