Holiday Goodies

treslecheCinco de Mayo is not necessarily celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico, but here in the United States it's a celebration of Mexican culture and a day where no excuse is needed to fill up on Mexican favorites. Guacamole, tacos, and margaritas are all popular when May 5 rolls around, but what about dessert? One of the most popular Mexican desserts is tres leches cake, a sponge cake made of three types of milk, hence the name. Sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream make up this incredibly sweet cake.

All over Latin America and even the Caribbean, people enjoy tres leches cake for holidays or just simple family get-togethers, so why not serve it on Cinco de Mayo this year? Some recipes for the cake use butter, which creates a more dense cake, but this recipe leaves it out to create a softer texture. Also, the egg yolks and whites are beaten separately, which creates more volume. The resulting texture is truly sponge-like, easily absorbing about 1 quart of creamy liquid. After chilling, the cake is ready for the final flourish of whipped cream.

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From the New York Times

widow cliquot
The Widow Clicquot,” Tilar J. Mazzeo’s sweeping oenobiography of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, is the story of a woman who was a smashing success long before anyone conceptualized the glass ceiling. Her destiny was formed in the wake of the French Revolution when, Mazzeo suggests, “modern society — with its emphasis on commerce and the freedom of the individual — was invented.” Barbe-Nicole, daughter of a successful textile maker turned Jacobin, is portrayed as someone whose way of doing business helped define the next century.

Fate cursed or blessed her with the mantle of early widowhood. Her husband, a winemaker from whom she learned the craft, died when she was 27, leaving her a single mother — the veuve (widow) Clicquot. Officially, the cause of François Clicquot’s death was typhoid, which was then commonly treated by feeding the patient Champagne, believed to strengthen the body against what was known as malignant fever. “To think that a bottle of his own sparkling wine might have saved François!” Mazzeo writes, going on to speculate that it is also possible he killed himself because business wasn’t good.

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SpicyNuts-1 2There’s lots of good news about these spicy nuts:

1. You can bring them to a party as a hostess gift and they will love them and not really compute how little effort went into making them.

2. You can make them way in advance, as much as two weeks. Just don’t do what I have been known to do and forget that you made them two weeks ago and go tearing around on the day of the party making them all over again.

3. Everybody likes them.

4. You can put them on a salad with dried cranberries and feta and everyone will think you are a genius. (Or break them up and put them on top of ginger ice cream—yum.)

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squashpieMy favorite part about Thanksgiving is always the desserts. Pumpkin pie and pecan pie are my favorites, but squash pie is my personal specialty. But all the Thanksgiving pies are very much American specialties. You can't really find pie as popular anywhere else in the world. The first Americans, the pilgrims, who celebrated the holiday did not automatically think to make pies out of the land's native squashes and pumpkins. They were more apt to eat meat pies for a main dish and custards for dessert as was the tradition in Europe, but because of scarcity, they had to use the plentiful crops for something. Some bright individual combined pumpkins, pie, and custard and came up with the basics for the recipes we follow today. I sincerely thank that individual.

There's just something special about fall and winter squashes, their unique shapes and earthy flavors, that makes me want to cook and bake with them. Since I prefer the more mellow flavor of squash to pumpkin, I use acorn or butternut squash. Sometimes I steam or roast them for this recipe, but canned squash or pumpkin works perfectly well. Since it's synonymous with the holiday, it's the only time I use a can all year. This recipe is very quick and easy. The squash custard is whipped in one bowl. A machine isn't even required. So, do not buy a pumpkin pie from the bakery or frozen section of the grocery store. And whatever you do, don't buy frozen pie crust either. This pie with its cornmeal crust is much more unique than anything available in stores. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and your guests will be delightedly pleased with Thanksgiving dessert.

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From the Huffington Post

easyappetizers.jpgWith the holidays near -- er, here -- holiday party season is in full swing. We're sure you've already labored over festive meals and decadent desserts to serve to your loved ones when entertaining at home. If you're still hosting, for New Year's Eve, perhaps, you deserve to take a break. Or at least appear to in front of your guests.

These awesome appetizers require almost no moment-of work or attention. Some need to be pulled out of the oven or gently reheated, but other than that, they're purely make-ahead. For the most part, they're easy too, requiring no more than a few hours of work a day or two before.

That means when you throw a finger food party, all you've really got to do is relax, dip your pita into some hummus, and toast to the new year with friends.

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