Back in Rhode Island, there was never much to look forward to after Christmas. The holiday decorations came down, it was depressingly dark by 4:30 pm, and that once-fluffy-perfect-for-sledding-snow had turned into treacherous black ice. But there was always panettone.
Panettone is an Italian sweetbread made with candied orange, zest, citron, and raisins that is closely associated with Christmas and New Year's Day. Growing up in Rhode Island, my family received a lot of panettone for Christmas because it was a go-to gift among Italians. Need a gift for your lawyer? A loaf of panettone is perfect. Invited to someone's house for coffee around the holidays? Bring panettone. Have an exceptionally good mailman? Give him a loaf of panettone, plus a shot of anisette when no one's looking. That always warms him up a bone-chillingly cold route.
Though panettone is delicious unadorned, I always preferred it toasted with a dab of butter or some orange marmalade. However, my favorite way to eat it was my mom's panettone French toast. She would cut super thick slices (because, really, where's the fun in thin French toast?), dip them in a mixture of egg, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest, then cook them until golden brown and plump. All they needed after that was a drizzle of pure maple syrup and a dusting of confectioners' sugar. And that is exactly what I'm sharing with you today.
There was a long line at the meat case this Saturday at the grocery store and I was standing with the crowd. I enjoyed asking everyone in line how they make ‘their’ Tortiere pie. I was in the company of experts - it’s a serious subject in Maine.
Tortiere is a meat and potato pie seasoned with sweet spices, similar in flavor and texture to a coarse country pate but made with potatoes as the binding agent instead of fatback and Tortiere is enrobed in a double crust.
One cute older couple told me they were making 20 pies. She told me, “we have the time to make tortiere pies for our family - they are too busy to make it for themselves.” It is the season to make Tortiere pie. It’s a French Canadian treasured recipe and tradition and everyone makes it differently.
Some will only make it with a lard crust - I save my saturated fat calories for something more spectacular. Some sweet little old gray haired ladies insist that the only way to properly make the filling is with finely minced meats, hand done. My family, meaning my mother’s side of the family always made it with ground pork and beef, equal weights. I make my pie with a butter crust - I am a ‘no lard or Crisco’ chick.
We just can't resist a festive cocktail to liven up the holidays. Here are three sure to please martinis that will help you deck the halls with traditional flavors of the season.
Winter Wonderland Martini
2 oz. Three Olives Cake Vodka
2 oz. White Chocolate Liqueur
1 oz. White Creme de Cacao
1 oz. Heavy Cream
Combine in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass, sprinkle with coconut flakes and stir. Garnish with a white chocolate wafer (if desired)!
Candy Cane Lane Martini
2.5 oz. Three Olives Cake Vodka
1 oz. White Creme de Menthe
1/2 oz. Peppermint Schnapps
Dash of Grenadine
Add grenadine to the bottom of chilled martini glass. Shake remaining ingredients and strain into martini glass to create swirl effect!
1 oz. Three Olives Cake Vodka
2.5 oz. Eggnog
3/4 oz. Amaretto
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Top with grated cinnamon or nutmeg and enjoy!
- Recipes courtesy of Three Olives Vodka
Making the juciest bone-in, whole holiday ham is easier than you think. It all starts with the ham itself. I'll admit, I am a bit a ham snob. It has to be quality and it HAS to be bone-in. Now, almost five years ago, I wrote about a making a Baked Ham with Rum and Coke Glaze. It is an amazing recipe using a smaller ham, but still bone-in. Please tell me you have stopped buying the pre-sliced spiral ham. If you haven't, call me and I'll talk you off the ledge, or I'll talk to your family member who's still doing it.
Anyway, I have to admit I am so, so lucky to have one of the most quality places to buy meat. This particular bone-in, whole ham is from Carlton Farms, my local go-to place for all things meat. To all of my local friends, these hams are the best I have ever tasted. No exaggeration. And no one is paying me say that. My mom, who has been cooking hams for YEARS visits and can't believe how lovely these turn out. A good ham requires little intervention.
My point is, you have to start with an excellent ham, to get the best and juiciest flavor. And don't be afraid of the carving, it's not hard. This particular ham weighed in at 19.5 pounds. It would, without a doubt, feed 20-25 people, or better yet, a smaller crowd with lots of leftovers.
The last time I made eggnog was in college. It was a recipe from one of the first cookbooks I ever owned, the Joy of Cooking, and it involved whipped egg whites and heavy cream, lots of sugar and brandy. It was voluminous, fluffy and delicious but a fair amount of work and it served an army.
When the holidays roll around, I'm always tempted, but often disappointed by the eggnog available at the supermarket. This year I was sent a sample of eggnog from Organic Valley and was surprised by how good it was. It wasn't fluffy, but it was rich and creamy and it didn't have any strange flavors or weird texture. I wanted to see if other eggnogs were equally as good.
Thanks to a connection at Whole Foods, the next thing I knew a handful of local food writers and bloggers were sitting around a table tasting eggnogs and also some desserts, cheeses (Uniekaas truffled gouda, oh la la!) a delectable baked spiral sliced Wellshireham and wine for good measure (more about that later).
Here are the results:
Do you love coconut as much as I do? If you do, then these Rice Krispie Coconut Snowballs are going to make you smile. The Rice Krispies become this sugary coconut delivery system. What could be more perfect?
Now, my husband, he completely dislikes coconut. It kills me! I don't know how he lives...(he'll love that I said that too). I guess he could never live in the South with all the amazing Coconut Cream Pie he'd have to turn down. And then there's the most amazing Coconut Cake I've ever made. Swoon! He'll never know what he's missing. More for me.
This is truly a quick and easy recipe, perfect for the cookie platter. The sugary whipped egg whites keep the mixture together, letting you form the mixture into little snowballs.
During a holiday season so full of red and green, the snow white color is a welcome reprieve. It gives balance to the Christmas crazy that can sometimes take over the house. I find these cookies to be an elegant reminder of the serenity of wintertime.
I’ve seen wooden molds with delicate designs carved into them many times as I’ve browsed through antique shops and rummaged my way through flea markets. I never really knew what they were supposed to be used for. A neighbor once gave me the light colored rolling pin you can see in the photo above. She’d had it for years and wasn’t exactly sure if she’d ever used it, but she thought it would be a nice addition to the collection of old rolling pins I kept in an old wicker bike basket hanging on the wall in my kitchen. That was years ago. I’ve never used that carved rolling pin. Until last Sunday.
I was invited to join the Oja family in their spacious kitchen for their annual springerle-making day. Snowflakes were falling as another friend and I pulled into the long driveway leading to their house tucked into the countryside outside of Bemidji, Minnesota.
As I stepped into the warm and cozy home, I was immediately hit with the aroma of mulling spices and cardamom. Beth Oja, our hostess, had prepared Finnish Pulla and mulled cider made from apples the family had picked from their trees and pressed themselves. I thought I might be in heaven. And, I knew this was going to be a great day.
For some reason I have found myself in Scandinavian and Eastern European countries during the winter months and although the weather can be a bit frigid, the experience has always been memorable. Recent visits to Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Prague proved not only beautiful to see around the holidays, but each city also offered its own version of a warm libation to combat the cold temperatures – mulled wine.
If you find yourself in just about any European destination in December you are bound to come across a local version of their mulled wine. Whether it’s Glühwein (in Netherlands and Germany), Glögg (in Scandinavia), or Svařák (Czech) this spiced wine concoction with warm your body and spirit.
While the basis of mulled wine is pretty much the same, each region has a slightly different take on the recipe. The Swedes add raisins and almonds, as well as more sugar than most and usually a healthy dose of extra alcohol like Aquavit or vodka. In Germany, you´ll find a lighter, less sweet version – theirs has less sugar than Glögg and more spices like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.
Another classic Christmas cookie - Shortbread is a traditional Scottish dessert that consists of three basic ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter. According to Wikpedia, this cookie resulted from medieval biscuit bread, which was a twice baked, enriched bread roll dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a soft and sweetened biscuit called a Rusk.
Eventually, yeast from the original Rusk recipe was replaced by butter, which was becoming more of a staple in the British Isles. Despite the fact that shortbread was prepared during much of the 12th century, the refinement of shortbread was actually accredited to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century.
The name of one of the most famous and most traditional forms of shortbread, petticoat tails, were named by Queen Mary. This type of shortbread was baked, cut into triangular wedges as they are in this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.
It's not too early to start planning what you are going to make with your Thanksgiving leftovers. There might be items you want to pick up and have on hand for the days after the holiday. Goodness knows you won't want to head back to the market (even though it will be empty). Anyway, the Monte Cristo is traditionally a fried ham and cheese sandwich. I have always dined on them at the Blue Bayou, the restaurant that sits inside The Pirate's of the Caribbean at Disneyland. Have you been there? It has been years since I was back but I remember them fondly.
The Monte Cristo is essentially a variation of the French croque-monsieur and my version uses your leftover turkey and cranberry sauce. It's kind of like making French toast but with a sandwich. In other words, it's very easy.
I used Muenster cheese (not to be confused with Munster cheese). Muenster is a great melting variety with a mild, creamy taste. Have the deli counter person slice it as thin as possible.
This sandwich is a great way to use up leftovers, especially if you have to feed a house full of holiday visitors. I think re-purposing leftovers into a completely different meal is always a great way to use them up. No one wants to keep eating the same thing over and over again.