Category Archives: Holiday Recipes

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Holiday basket 2015
Holiday basket 2015

The holidays are almost here again and I can’t believe how fast this year has flown. I look back and can’t believe how incredibly busy and crazy it has been. No matter how crazy life gets, I take time out once a year to bake for my loved ones. This year I added this new cookie to the mix and it was a hit. Soft and airy, with a bit of sour and spice that melds together so well. Enjoy!

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Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread

I took a couple of days off from work and hunkered down in my tiny apartment kitchen to bake my annual holiday basket. This is my seventh year baking this basket and as can be imagined, the basket has evolved and grown (some may say, it has grown into a crazy endeavor.)

This year, I made sixteen treats over the course of four days. Even though it was well thought out with spreadsheets and I knew I would be excited to send off the goodies to my family and friends; halfway through, I was feeling the craziness of it all! But the beat goes on and so did my baking.

For my sixth treat for my annual holiday basket was a cranberry pistachio shortbread lightly scented with orange.

Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread

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Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs remind me of the holidays. One of my cousins had to have a tray of deviled eggs just to himself.  He wouldn’t eat anything else, just those eggs.

He was the only one of us that was tall and lanky, definitely an odd man out in a family of shorties. Actually, now that I think of it,  he was the only one of us that didn’t talk that much. I’d ask him questions and he would give one word answers and continue to stare at his food. Not like the rest of us “young’uns”  who were frenzied with activity and possibly ready for a food fight at any moment.

At the time, I thought he was kind of weird, stooping over his plate at the too small children’s table, not talking, completely focused on chasing each egg, one by one, while they slid across his plate and eventually into his grasp. Quietly, he sat slowly chewing and eventually swallowing in one big gulp, only to accent his large protruding adam’s apple on his long neck. You could tell, he savored every bite.

Now I know he wasn’t weird, he just had a more elevated understanding of his food. He knew what he wanted and he practiced mindful eating before it was cool. This is for my cousin, the trendsetter, our family’s deviled eggs. Enjoy!

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs
Deviled Eggs

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Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, be it made from scratch or one of those blue boxed quick versions. I grew up, for the most part, only eating mac and cheese for special occasions, such as family reunions or the holidays. Always it would be a baked casserole in a glass rectangular pyrex, that one of the Aunts would bring over. Such sweet memories. Of course this would be my favorite version of mac and cheese, with its almost cheesy souffle texture, because of the addition of an egg to the mix.

My husband, on the other hand, was raised on the boxed stuff. The powdered cheese and milk concoction is his nostalgia. He didn’t mind the idea of homemade mac and cheese, but he wanted it creamy, something with a little more resemblance to his stove top version. Here it is, the perfect middle ground for me and my husband. Creamy from working the mixture on the stove top, no egg, but finished in the oven with breadcrumbs to get that nice browning that I feel is an absolute must. In addition, we have found together as a couple, we adore the flavor of rosemary in our mac and cheese; so there we have it, the perfect combination for our marriage. Enjoy!

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Smoked Chicken with Steamed Broccoli and Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Smoked Chicken with Steamed Broccoli and Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

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Frosted Sugar Cookies

Okay, y’all, I love cookies. You know from my past posts that I make a holiday basket for my family and these were included in this year’s basket. A frosted sugar cookie is not only a very fun cookie, but it can take on different incarnations depending on the family. The cookie can be big and soft or thin and crispy, the frosting can be big and fluffy or thin icing or just a hint, barely a smear lightly coating the cookie.

My cookie is a sugar cookie recipe that has been in my family for more than thirty years and maybe even longer, not sure. It is my favorite, full of butter flavor. The frosting has a secret ingredient that I discovered in a bakery a few years ago that serves the best decorated sugar cookies that I have ever tasted, hands down. As I crooked my neck, as I do at all my favorite eating joints, to watch the lady in the back feverishly whipping together some frosting, I saw it, the golden key to what my frosting was missing… butter extract. I know, it sounds weird, but it is crazy good.

Anyway, if you are feeling in a festive mood, these cookies are a winner!

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Frosted Sugar Cookies
Frosted Sugar Cookies

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Ranch Oyster Crackers

Ranch oyster crackers, how I love thee, let me count the ways! You are crunchy and salty… and ranch-ee… okay, I went a bit too far. These are one of those treats that my mom made for me as a little girl, so they are very nostalgic. I can still remember sitting in my pink tights on the living room floor fresh from ballet class watching Heman and She-Ra bounding around on the back of a green and orange striped cat, all the while I am munching on these little nuggets of joy and through spit stuttered sentences yelling things like, “by the power of greyskull…I have the power!”  Oh yeah, I loved She-Ra. What was not to like? She-Ra was a friggin’ bad ass, had a super cute outfit AND she owned a Pegasus/Unicorn, the coolest hybrid animal ever to grace animation. But I digress…

As I have grown older, I continue to make these oyster crackers for snacks every once and a while and everyone I give them to feel the addictive powers of the crackers tugging them in for more and more. This is one of those definites for my yearly holiday basket, as everyone loves them, even my husband’s family has asked that I make more to put in the basket, because they wait all year in anticipation of these crackers. SO if you are in need of a snacky snack, this is a winner!

Ranch Oyster Crackers

Ranch Oyster Crackers
Ranch Oyster Crackers

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Magic Middles Peanut Butter Cookies

Every cookie that I make for my yearly holiday basket is normally made for someone in mind. I am feeding about 20-25 people’s different tastes, so it goes to accept that every cookie that is sent out isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite, but someone will appreciate it. I try to keep tabs on which family likes what so that I can send them more of an item while lessening that item for another family that may prefer more of a different item, but everyone gets a little of everything.

My side of the family likes caramel and vanilla flavors, while my other side of the family is more into richer flavors of coffee and chocolate, my cousins family loves spicy flavors such as cinnamon and ginger, while I also also have a couple that enjoy fruity flavors. My husband’s sister really enjoys nutty flavors, especially peanut butter. This past year, I started making these peanut butter cookies that will be a perfect inclusion into the holiday basket. The creamy center of peanut butter makes it just different enough that it is elevates the cookie above the normal cross hatched peanut butter cookie, making it the perfect present. If you are allergic to peanuts, you could get creative and use a different nut butter to suit your taste. Enjoy!

Magic Middles Peanut Butter Cookies

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Honey Beer Basted Ham

During the week, I record “The Chew” and have it going in the background when I am settling down at night doing chores or whatever else, you know like checking WordPress. Normally, I am a bit preoccupied and glance up occasionally to see what is going on.

However, this past week they had on a guest named Luke Mangan, a chef from Australia, I believe. Anyway, he was making a ham with a beer glaze  that looked quite interesting. Seeing as we have never made a baked ham that we were quite happy with and we also have a fascination with cooking with beer, why not? At the end of it all, the flavor was great. There were quite a few changes that I would make next time to tweak it to our taste and so I revamped the recipe with these changes. If you are making a ham, this would be a great twist on an old favorite. We will definitely be making this again.

Honey Beer Basted Ham

Honey Beer Basted Ham
Honey Beer Basted Ham

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Corned Beef and Cabbage

Most of you know that I am of Irish descent and I have been on a quest to find authentic Irish recipes to add to my repertoire. You can read more about that on my Colcannon post.

My husband, who is of Slovak descent, really pushed me to find these roots because his family held on to parts of their cuisine. These traditions really made him and his family feel unique and created strong ties between them. While I do have my Southern roots and am very adept at those flavors, he has helped me find traditional Irish-American recipes to further me on my journey.

What I understand from my research, corned beef is one of those recipes that has been adulterated a little since coming over the pond.  Corned Beef and Cabbage is an actual recipe that was served in Ireland a long time ago, but it has waned in popularity and is viewed more as an old person’s meal. However, it flourished here in the states almost as a snapshot of the Irish cuisine at the time that the Irish immigrants started coming over. There is a debate over the cut of meat that was used in traditional Irish corned beef. This Irish-American will use what is available, corned beef brisket.

When picking out a brisket, you have the option of a point cut and a flat cut. I prefer the flat cut, because as suggested, it is an even piece of meat, which in turn means even heat distribution and cooking times.  Anyway, this corned beef is delicious as is and will provide me with lots of yummy leftovers to play around with for a few days. Happy St. Patty’s Day, Everyone!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned Beef and Cabbage
Corned Beef and Cabbage

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