Holiday Goodies

children-with-lanterns-at-midnight.jpgCertain people, I’m told, are particularly susceptible to taking their parents seriously, just as they might be to sunburn, or T.B.  I believe it, especially around New Year’s Eve, when a trio of my Mom’s personal aphorisms begins to clang around my head. 

“Don’t drive after dark: the drunks are out.”  Kinda true, and especially relevant.  Not only do New Year’s Eve activities happen in the dark, but most revolve around drinking.  Plus, this being Los Angeles, I drive wherever I’m going.  Looks like I’m not going anywhere.

“Don’t breathe other people’s exhalations.”  Admittedly one of her more bizarre pieces of advice, but no less applicable.  Parties, by their very nature, are full of people, and people (the unhygienic monsters) consistently breathe.  Best I stay at home.  (And ask my boyfriend to direct his exhalations out an open window.)

“Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”  Forget seeing the ball drop.  I’ll be desperately trying to will myself to sleep at that point, avoiding whatever general “not good” waits around to pounce on people in the wee hours.

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ImageWhat would the holiday season be without desserts? And booze? Fortunately, the sassy ladies behind the spirited cookbook Booze Cakes have got ya covered. Authors Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone have created the ultimate fun baking book with over 100 bodacious, boozy confections.

The book is divided into four sections:
1. Classic Booze Cakes such as English Trifle and Tipsy Tiramisu.
2. Cocktail Cakes such as Pumpkin Martini Cakes and Tequila Sunrise Cake.
3. Cake Shots including Rum & Coke and Screwdriver Shots.
4. Cakes with a Twist such as Black Jack Praline Cake and Rosemary Limoncello Cake.

Castella and Stone are girls who want to have fun, and they want you to have fun too. That's why they include helpful icons for special occasion cakes and a cheeky "Booze Meter" that rates cakes as "Lightweight," "Feeling It," or "Totally Tipsy." (In case you're wondering, I picked a "Totally Tipsy" cake.)

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Leftover-Turkey-Cranberry-Monte-Cristo-SandwichesIt'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.

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easyturkey.jpgWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it was time to experiment with some turkey recipes. Some years I have a house full of people and often cook two big birds, but other times it’s just a small group and cooking a huge turkey just seems to be too time consuming.

Roasting a turkey breast is a great solution for small gatherings and it makes a great dinner any time of year – not just at Thanksgiving! Most of the “experts” (Alton Brown, Emeril, Cooks Illustrated, etc.) recommend brining in a saltwater solution to season the meat and keep it moist, juicy and succulent and though it does add to the prep time, it’s really worth it.

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panforteWhen I worked in a gourmet retail store as a teenager, I got a chance to try many delectable things. I sampled high quality chocolates imported from Europe, pistachios from Iran, Alice Medrich's mammoth truffles, and panforte made by Margaret Fox of Cafe Beaujolais. I'll never forget those heavy round thick loaves, wrapped in dark red or green cellophane. Thin chewy slices served with or tea or alongside cheese seemed so sophisticated. It was definitely the best fruitcake I ever tasted. 

My parents made panforte too and last year I realized it would be the perfect thing to make with a surplus of candied lemon peel. My recipe uses rice flour instead of wheat flour, which means it is gluten free! If you have nuts in your freezer, and they weren't bought this season, they are probably from last season and now is a good time to finish them off.

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