Holiday Goodies

whiskeyFor the holidays, old favorites are entitled to special love. Case in point, apple pie. Nothing is more American and no dessert is more satisfying than apple pie, hot from the oven, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Delicious as it is, special occasions call for special ingredients.

Whisky's smoky sweetness seems like a perfect companion for apple pie's richly comforting wholesomeness.

My mother made apple pie for Thanksgiving and Chanukah. Her recipe was the essence of simplicity. One of those dishes that intuitively adheres to the principle of "let the ingredients speak for themselves."

At a time when farmers markets didn't exist in cities, my mom would pack my sister and myself into her Dodge and we'd head out to the farms in the areas surrounding Banning, California, the small town on the way to Palm Springs where we lived during my high school years.

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Here we go again.

This is where Magical Thinking meets Enlightened Acceptance.

Here are some examples of Magical Thinking:

fruits_vegetables.jpg1.)   I’m going to lose 15 lbs. this year.

2.)  I’m going to eat right this year (less sweets and fat).

3.)  I’m going to walk the dogs more often.

4.)  I’m going to read more rather than play Jewel Quest on the computer.

5.)  I’m going to re-do the garage/kid’s room/my office, without spending any money.

6.)  I’m finally going to read that material about learning to do books on tape for extra money.

7.)   I’m going to plan meals more so that everyone in the house isn’t grazing the whole day, including me.

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ImageI enjoy spending hours cooking in the kitchen. Doing the prep work soothes my frazzled nerves. Watching a dish slowly come together as the various ingredients combine their flavors calms me down.

Being in the kitchen is a great escape from a contentious world. Pulling together appetizers, a salad, main dish, and a couple of desserts, gives me a lot of pleasure. Good food promotes good conversation and well-prepared dishes tell our friends that we care about them.

I like to have the meal completed before everyone arrives, but sometimes, like this New Year's Eve, I know I'll still be cooking. The best solution is a colorful cocktail that refreshes and entertains while I'm finishing dinner.

Because there are edible pieces of fruit at the bottom, including a spoon means the cocktail is a drink and an appetizer all in one.

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Mulled-Wine-4For 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.

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holiday-peanut-butter-filled-pretzels-5My kids beg for chocolate covered pretzels every holiday season. We have been making versions of these for years and years. Sometimes it's just the long rods with sprinkles, or the thick "pretzel shaped" ones. 

They are another easy, easy addition to the holiday cookie platter. And they look so pretty too. We made so many of these the other day. It's also the perfect project for kids who like to do this kind of thing. No stove required.

I have been using Candiquik for a very long time. It only shows up at my grocery store "sometimes" during the holiday season. When I see it, I buy every single package. It lasts all year and is perfect for lots of holiday projects (Valentine's, Easter etc). I especially like how it sets up so easily on the item you are dipping. I have always had great luck with this product. I just wish it was more readily available and I'm finding myself ordering it online more and more.

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