Category Archives: Christmas

Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Turkey and pie may take all the Thanksgiving glory, but I’m on a mission to nab a tiny bit of it for holiday cheese plates. You know, the stuff you snack on while you make…everything else. They’re frequently overlooked or taken for granted, which is a shame because the holiday cheese plate says something about the person who made it. Specifically, that they like cheese.

While there is nothing wrong with just putting out cheese and crackers, I’ve made it a point over these last several Thanksgivings to turn my cheese plate game up to 11. These twists, shortbreads and slumping blocks of feta aren’t difficult or overly flashy—nobody has time for that on the fourth Thursday in November!—but they sure are delicious. Here is a definitive list of your favorite cheesy food blogger’s favorite cheesy appetizers.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Rosemary-Parmesan Cheese Straws

These flaky homemade cheese straws are the perfect thing to serve alongside an assortment of cheeses and fresh fruit. They’re perfumed with rosemary, have a little funk from grated Parmesan, can be prepped ahead (!), and they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Baked Brie is a classic holiday party treat, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Just wrap a wheel of brie in puff pastry and bake until golden and gooey—that’s it! This version has added sweetness and depth from caramelized onions and a smear of dijon mustard. Yum!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Spicy Cheddar Shortbread

These shortbread are like Cheez-Its all glowed up. They’ve got a rich cheddar flavor with hits of spicy cayenne and black pepper, and are outrageously good. Serve them by themselves or pair with a tart apple for a bright, rich finish.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

I made a whole Christmas dinner for my family last year, including a porchetta, but this easy appetizer stole the show. An entire block of feta is painted with olive oil and honey before being baked until soft and slumping, then broiled to a golden finish. While Baked Feta would be delicious served on its own with water crackers, you’d be remiss to skip the sweet & savory Sautéed Dates. They’re chewy, caramelized, and get finished with a a good hit of coarse salt before being piled on the Baked Feta and fully devoured.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

This year’s cheese plate offering is low-brow and high-brow and completely delicious. Two sheets of flaky rough puff pastry are sandwiched together with southern pimento cheese, gently twisted into a sun shape (“soleil”) and baked until bubbly and golden. While everything else on this list works well as part of a cheese plate, this Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil *is* the cheese plate.

Have you made any of these or any of my other cheesy appetizers? What’s your favorite thing to put on a holiday cheese plate? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesHello, it’s me, your completely exhausted food blogger friend!

I’m writing this post on Friday night (wild life I lead, huh?), but by the time you read it on Monday, I’ll be at my parents’ house in Texas assembling a Porchetta (!) and giving their dog as many scritches and snuggles as she’ll allow. I’m looking forward to the break and the family time, and to making holiday food.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesIt’s been determined that our Christmas dinner dessert will be a Winning Hearts & Minds Cake, mostly for deliciousness and ease-of-preparation reasons, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find an excuse to make these Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies, too. Thanks to their quick prep time and my mother’s love for any and all dried fruit, I’m sure she won’t object. She may, however, not exactly love me kneading dinner roll dough on her counter, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesThe blondie base is so simple to make that I have the recipe committed to memory. Well, almost. I reduced the flour by a couple of tablespoons for an extra dense and chewy result and I don’t regret it one bit!Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesYou could put 1 1/4 cup of any mix-in you like in this blondie batter and it’d bake up beautifully. I went with chocolate chips, dried cranberries and candied ginger because I had a little of all of those in my cookie mix-in cabinet—it’s as simple as that. It helps, of course, that chocolate, cranberries and candies ginger are both beautiful *and* sweet, tangy, delicious holiday fare. I mean, are these calling your name like they are mine?Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesI’ll be taking this Wednesday off posting because it’s Christmas (duh). I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with good food and people you love. I’ll be back Friday with my last recipe of 2019 and probably some dog pictures.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies
makes one 8-inch pan

1 cup water
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup small-diced candied ginger
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish and line it with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for easy removal. Grease again. Set aside.

Plump the cranberries. Bring water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add cranberries. Let sit about 5 minutes before straining out water.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla, followed by flour and salt. Stir in dried cranberries and candied ginger. Check to make sure the batter isn’t too warm to the touch before stirring in chocolate chips (you don’t want them to melt).

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-27 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Let blondies cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan, then use parchment to lift them onto a cutting board. Slice with a large, sharp chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve.

Blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for three days.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesChocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies

Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesI had never seen Italian Rainbow Cookies (aka Seven Layer Cookies) until I moved to New York. Come to find, they are everywhere here. I mean everywhere. Little Italy (duh), bakeries, bodegas, bagel shops, grocery stores—everywhere. I can’t go a day without seeing these festive Italian-American confections, and yet, it took me eleven years to try one.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesWhat can I say? Almond cake, jam, chocolate, food coloring—Italian Rainbow Cookies are kind of a lot. Even when I did finally try one, I wasn’t a huge fan. Most of the versions you see in NYC are mass-produced, and while they are ostensibly fine, they’re nothing to write home about. Dry, too dense, probably full of stuff that wouldn’t go in a homemade cake…Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesAll that is to say that homemade Italian Rainbow Cookies are where it’s at. Sure, they take a little more effort than popping down to the corner store and handing over some cash, but they are also infinitely better, and you don’t have to put on a coat to make them.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesMost Italian Rainbow Cookies are made from a standard torte batter that’s spiked with almond paste. Mine are different though, relying on almond flour instead. These cookies are grain-free—inclusive baking for the win!Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFor the colorful layers, I used my Flourless Almond Cake recipe as a starting point, doubled the batch, then tweaked it to use softened butter, and added almond paste and a bit of baking powder.

Once the batter is mixed up, it’s divided into three portions. One is dyed red (I like mine a bit pink), another is dyed green, and the third is left plain. They’re each baked for 10 minutes and will look super underdone when they’re ready, but a toothpick inserted in the centers should come out clean.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesThe layers are very thin and will cool quickly. Once you can handle them, spread two of them with jam and stack ‘em up so they resemble the Italian flag. Then put them in your refrigerator and weigh ‘em down for several hours. I like to leave mine in the fridge overnight—you want those layers to become besties for the resties.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesOnce the chill time is up, give each side a good swipe of dark chocolate and a chill, and then slice them into as many pieces as you like. The cookies here are 1 1/2”x1” with the total count coming out to 49. That’s enough to keep some, gift some, and still have a few to leave for Santa!Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesI know this all sounds like a lot of work, but it really happens very quickly and is pretty simple. The most taxing part is making the batter (whipped egg whites alert!) and that’s really no problem. Really, the biggest obstacles between you and a batch of homemade Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies are time and fridge space.

If you can’t find either of those things between now and Christmas, don’t worry. New Yorkers eat them all year round, and you can, too.Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies

Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies {Grain-Free}
makes one 9×13 pan, 4-5 dozen cookies

6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 cups blanched almond flour (measured by spoon & level)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5-6 drops red gel food coloring (liquid will work)
5 drops green gel food coloring (liquid will work)

For assembly:
1 10-ounce jar jam (raspberry and apricot are traditional)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Read this recipe before proceeding. None of the steps are difficult, but there are a lot of them. The active work time for this recipe is between 2-3 hours, and there is one 4 hour chill.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3* 9×13-inch pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Separate egg yolks from whites. Set whites aside in a very clean, dry bowl.

Pour sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pinch almond paste into small pieces. Turn your mixer to low and allow to mix until the largest pieces of almond paste are the size of small peas. Add butter and mix until fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing until combined. Add half the almond flour, the baking powder and salt, and beat until combined. Mix in remaining almond flour. If using a stand mixer, transfer batter to a separate bowl.

Wash and dry mixer attachments, along with a medium mixing bowl. I also like to wipe down the equipment with vinegar, just to ensure that everything is completely clean before I add the egg whites. There is no way to salvage this recipe if the egg whites are contaminated with oil, yolk, or even water.

Transfer egg whites to the very clean, dry medium mixing bowl. Use the very clean, dry electric mixer to whip them until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.

Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the almond mixture. Gently fold half the remaining egg whites into the mixture, followed by the other half.

Divide batter into three bowls (about 1 1/4 cups batter in each). Leave one plain, dye one pink(red, and dye the remaining one green.

Taking care to wipe down silicone spatulas, spoons, etc., between colors, transfer batters to the three pans. Use an offset spatula to smooth batter to the edges of the pans, taking care to wipe it clean between colors.

Bake the pink/red and plain layers for 10-11 minutes. They will look underdone, but a toothpick inserted in the centers should come out clean. Let cool in their pans for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Bake the green layer for 10-11 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in their pans for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Prepare the jam. Transfer jam to a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds and stir to see if it’s loose enough to sieve. If not, microwave in 15 second increments until it is (it shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds).

Place a wire mesh sieve over a heatproof bowl. Pour warm jam into the sieve and use a spoon to press it through. Discard solids.

Assemble layers. Top the pinkish-red layer (still on the rack) with a piece of parchment. Top with a cutting board or sheet pan (top side down) over the parchment. Use both hands to grab the rack/layer/board situation and invert. Remove rack and discard pinkish-red layer’s baking parchment. Spread 3-4 tablespoons of strained jam over the entire layer.

Carefully invert plain layer over the pinkish-red layer. Peel off and discard plain layer’s baking parchment. Spread 3-4 tablespoons of jam over the entire layer.

Carefully invert green layer over the green layer over the plain layer. Peel off and discard green layer’s baking parchment. Replace with a new sheet of parchment. Place a rimmed sheet pan over the top of the parchment.

Set this entire contraption in the refrigerator. Place a few canned goods in the sheet pan to weigh down the layers. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Remove layers contraption from refrigerator. Remove weight, sheet pan and parchment over the green layer. Use a serrated knife to slice off a thin edge all the way around.

Prepare the chocolate. Combine chopped bittersweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until smooth.

Spoon half the chocolate over the green layer. Use an offset spatula to smooth it just to the edges. Use the cutting board (or sheet pan) under the layers to transfer them to the freezer* for 10 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

Remove layers from freezer. Top chocolate with a sheet of parchment. Top with a cutting board (or sheet pan) over the parchment. Use both hands to grab the cutting boards on both sides of the layers. Holding them tightly, invert. Remove cutting board and discard parchment over the pinkish-red layer.

If chocolate has cooled too much, reheat for 10-15 seconds. Spoon remaining chocolate over the pinkish-red layer. Use an offset spatula to smooth it just to the edges. Use the cutting board (or sheet pan) under the layers to transfer them to the freezer* for 10 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

Slice cookies into 1 1/2×1-inch pieces. I use a serrated knife, but press directly down instead of sawing. Wipe down knife between cuts.

Serve cookies. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container container in the refrigerator for several days. Put wax paper between layers of cookies to prevent sticking.

Note:

If you do not have 3 9×13-inch pans, you may bake the layers one at a time, washing and drying the pans between layers. Cover any batter with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until you need it.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow Cookies

Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I can hardly believe that Christmas is one week away. Thanksgiving was so late this year that I don’t feel like I’ve stopped to bask in the glow of Christmas lights at all, and I won’t have time to until I’m in Texas.Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Don’t get me wrong, my apartment is decorated within an inch of fire code and I’ve been to see all the festive things. I’m just not quite in the spirit yet…except when I’m making cookies. Or showing up to places with cookies. Luckily for me, I do a lot of both of those things. Ain’t life grand?Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Today’s cookies, these Oat-Pecan Linzer beauts, are a crisp, nutty, whole grain take on a classic. They’re as delicious as they are visually stunning, and they have the added benefits of being both gluten-free and vegan, so you know the batch will disappear in no time.Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}The Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookie dough is a variation on the Toasted Oat Graham Crackers I made last year, but with more spice and brown sugar, a touch of cornstarch for tenderness, and toasty pecans in place of some of the oats. The dough comes together in the food processor before being rolled out on parchment, chilled briefly, cut and baked.Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}The cut-out cookies are set over a rack and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, while the whole ones are spread with jam. You can glue your linzers together with any jam or spread you like. I used raspberry jam in the cookies with the tree cut-outs and apricot for the stars. Feel free to get creative with key lime or grapefruit curd or even a swipe of pineapple cake filling (but keep in mind that none of those are vegan).Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}These linzers are everything I love in a holiday cookie: sweet, spiced, stunning and shareable. You *know* how much I love a cookie that accommodates multiple dietary needs! And guess what? I’ve got another coming at you Friday. ‘Tis the season.Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies
makes about 1.5 dozen sandwich cookies

Oat-Pecan Cookies:
2 cups old fashioned oats* (use certified gluten-free for gluten-free cookies)
3/4 cup raw pecan halves
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons water

For Assembly:
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup jam (I used 1/4 cup each apricot & raspberry)

Special Equipment:
2 1/2 inch cookie cutter
smaller 1-1 1/2 inch cookie cutter(s)

Place oven racks in the top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 325F.

Spread oats and pecans on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Place in oven and toast for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Line two sheet pans with parchment. Set aside.

Transfer oats and pecans into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1-1.5 minutes, or until there are no recognizable oats. Pulse in cornstarch, light brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add oil and water, and process until large clumps form.

Turn dough onto a large piece of parchment and lightly knead to form a ball. Lightly dust a rolling pin with cornstarch. Roll dough (still on parchment) to 1/8-inch thickness. Freeze sheets of dough (still on parchment) for 10 minutes, or refrigerate for 30.

Dip cookie cutters in cornstarch and shake off excess. Working with one sheet of dough at a time, use large cutter to cut circles. Carefully peel half of them from parchment and place 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Use smaller cutter(s) to cut centers out of remaining circles. Place cut out cookies on prepared pans. Re-roll scraps to use remaining dough.

Bake 10 minutes before rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Let cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Cookies will initially be slightly soft, but will harden as they cool. Repeat rolling and baking with any remaining dough.

Set a cooling rack over a piece of parchment. Once all cookies are baked and cooled, set the cookies with the centers cut out on a prepared rack. Sift confectioners sugar over the tops.

Spread each whole cookie with ~1 teaspoon of jam (amount is based on your preference). Carefully sandwich cookies together. Serve.

Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place wax paper between layers for best storage.Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Oat-Pecan Linzer Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Eggnog Scones

Eggnog SconesI had something a bit more complicated planned for today’s post, but due to circumstances beyond my control (number of hours in a day, number of days in a week), I had to take the easy way out.Eggnog SconesLucky for all of us, the easy way out is through a warm batch of Eggnog Scones.Eggnog SconesY’all, these are goooood. We’re talking 8 springy, nubbly-edged breakfast treats made with eggnog and then topped with eggnog glaze—what’s not to love.?! I am not a fan of eggnog in its liquid state, but mix it into dough or whirl it into glaze and add warming spices, and I’m suddenly *very* interested.Eggnog SconesAs with nearly all scones, these are a breeze to make. The dough comes together in ten minutes and bakes in fifteen. The glaze is technically optional, but it’s a snap to whisk up while the scones are cooling, and it’s delicious, of course. Creamy and lightly spiced, it’s the perfect accompaniment to the not-too-sweet scones. And that’s to say nothing of how satisfying it is to drizzle over the tops!Eggnog Scones Speaking of satisfying, eating one…or one and a half…or two…of these with a big cup of coffee is, like, the best way to start a holiday morning. I’ve been so busy since I returned home from Thanksgiving that I keep forgetting that Christmas is almost here. When I’m eating an Eggnog Scone though, the holiday cheer is real. Real delicious, that is.Eggnog Scones

Eggnog Scones
makes 8 scones

3/4 cup eggnog + more for brushing, very cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces

Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
small pinch of ground cinnamon + more for garnish
small pinch of ground nutmeg + more for garnish
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons eggnog

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Use a fork to whisk together 3/4 cup eggnog and vanilla. Set the mixture in the refrigerator.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Use a pastry blender (or two forks or your fingertips) to cut the cold butter into the flour mixture. Remove the eggnog from the refrigerator and pour it into the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until a dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a very well-floured surface. Using floured fingertips, press dough into a large 1-inch thick disc. Use a floured chef’s knife to cut the circle into 8 wedges. Remove wedges to prepared pan, setting them at least two inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones with additional eggnog. Bake for 15-16 minutes, until they “bounce back” when pressed with your finger. Let cool on their pan for about 10 minutes, or until you can handle them.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Set a cooling rack over the top. Place Scones on cooling rack.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and eggnog. Mixture should be very thick, but pourable. Drizzle glaze over scones. Top each with small pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg, if desired.

Serve scones immediately, or once the glaze sets (20 minutes or so). Scones are best the day they’re made, but will keep covered at room temperature for up to 48 hours.Eggnog SconesEggnog Scones