In this harried, indulgent time of year what I actually crave most is food that's simple and nourishing, something that doesn't take a lot of time or fuss to eat but provides warmth and balance. In other words, a big pot of soup. This sweet potato lima bean soup is thick, buttery, and comforting (and also completely vegan). I dare say it might even convert the lima beans haters into lovers.
From the very get-go of planning my Cozy Holiday Potluck, I knew that I wanted to make Bigos Stew. This Polish hunter's dish is a real stick-to-your ribs kind of affair — pork and sausage (several kinds!), sauerkraut, porcini mushrooms, and a few glugs of good beer. It's a bit rich to justify for a weeknight meal, but for a midwinter party with a group of friends who love to eat, it's absolutely perfect.
I come from a generously-sized family, the sort that prompted wide eyes and under-the-breath counting from strangers who glimpsed our brood at the library or grocery store. I'll spare you the counting and say that I have five brothers and two sisters, so eight of us, plus parents, and now assorted spouses and in-laws. Christmas is an all-day affair for us, with stockings and enough presents to necessitate an intermission about halfway through unwrapping. But as we've grown up and gotten married, things have shifted; last year we did Christmas in the evening, instead of in the morning, and every holiday now has a marked absence of a sibling (or two) celebrating with someone else's family.
But there is one inviolable tradition that still binds our Christmases together, and that is my mother's cinnamon rolls.
Chicken and mushroom lasagna has been a cold weather favorite in our house for a number of years. Its hearty layers of cheesy goodness always warm me up on cold, rainy Southern nights, and it's one of the few leftovers that I actually look forward to more than the main event.
Once an obscure Italian cookie from Prato, biscotti are now a common addition to many cookie plates. Classically, the cookie is made with pine nuts and almonds, but it's possible to find all sorts of additions these days, from bacon and cornmeal to drizzles of chocolate, both dark and white. Usually, I like to stick to a simple almond biscotti — unless it's the holidays when I show no shame in pulling out the pistachios and cranberries. Really, basic biscotti like our recipe here can be tweaked to suit whatever you fancy!
Making caramel sauce is simple, and additions of sea salt, lavender or even chilies take a basic sauce and make it into something special. This holiday season, I made mine boozy with an infusion of maple bourbon.
From the medicine cabinet to the bar, bitters have a long history of curing ailments and flavoring drinks. Though they may seem mysterious, at heart, bitters are simply bitter and aromatic herbs and spices infused or tinctured in spirits. Combining the various flavors is where the fun part comes in. Here's a primer to making your own bitters at home, which you can use in cocktails, sodas, cooking, and even as digestive aids.
When I was a child, there weren't a lot of sweets in our house, but come Christmastime, little teasing bits of my mom's holiday toffee would show up in my normally sugar-starved lunch bag during the week before school let out. Then, during our annual Christmas Eve tamale party, huge platters would appear, with piles of the stuff stacked high like poker chips.
These cute little turtle clusters are so much more than meets the eye. It's hard to resist their addictive combination of buttery pecans and chewy homemade caramel nestled under a creamy milk chocolate shell. So hard to resist, in fact, that I recommend making a double batch if you have any hopes of sharing.
While I can't claim credit for this recipe (I got it from a friend, who got it from another friend, and so it goes...,), it is known in these parts as "your cranberry cake." As my mother asked last week, "Are you bringing your cranberry cake to Thanksgiving?" And my sister said, "You better save some of your cranberry cake for me."
But it's not proprietary information — this cake can be your cranberry cake too.