Binge-reading all of the December issues of food magazines can bring out some irrational holiday thinking.
On the one hand, it can fool you into feeling like a holiday superhero. You'll want to cook everything you see and invite everyone you've ever met for the most perfect holiday soirée ever. An intimate Christmas goose dinner for 12! A leisurely holiday brunch for 30! Christmas cookies for 200!
It can also have the opposite effect. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the endless parade of precisely decorated cookies, the piles of perfectly wrapped presents, and tablescapes worthy of a Fifth Avenue holiday window. It can make you want to skip all this holiday fabulousness and jump right to January.
The key, of course, is a little moderation. And that's where we'll try to help.
We pored through a dozen December food magazines to find the one that we think is the best place for some end-of-year inspiration. Our pick? Bon Appétit.
More than any other magazine we read this month, Bon Appétit is filled to the brim with holiday goodness that not only looks great, but also seems attainable. Take their features on making a fantastic monkey bread or creating a mouthwatering caramel sauce. Both are the exact kind of things we want in the winter: sweet, rich, and comforting. The same is true of a feature on making brisket in the style of Mamaleh's, a new Jewish deli in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We will definitely make at least one of those dishes this month, if not all three.
But the magazine also surprised us. We were enthralled by a little feature on making snacks to take on an airplane, like coconut and crispy chickpea trail mix and a quinoa bowl with lentils and mustard vinaigrette. And in the magazine's "Healthyish" column, cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi (we love him!) offers up a mouthwatering curried lentil, tomato and coconut soup that sounds just healthy enough for our tastes in December.
But don't worry — there's plenty of glitz, too. Bon Appétit's cookie spread is our favorite of all the magazines' cookie features this month (and believe us, everyone has a cookie spread of some sort). It's so beautiful we could lick the page. In particular, the blood orange and poppy polenta shortbread and hazelnut lace sandwich cookies are calling to us.
This is a really enjoyable issue of Bon Appétit. It's the perfect amount of holiday inspiration without being overwhelming.
Beyond Bon Appétit, there are two more magazine issues we'd recommend for December. Better Homes and Gardens has an amazing feature, "The Best of BH&G Holiday," that culls from the magazine's previous 95 (!) holiday issues. It's a wide-ranging feature with gifts, trees, decor, and plenty of food, too.
Food Network Magazine also really wows this month. It's got hands-down the best gift guide of any of the magazines we read in December, with gift ideas at all price points (all food-related or inspired by food). And unlike anything we saw in other December mags, FNM has a really nice spread about edible gifts you can make yourself, like Michael Symon's beef jerky and Alex Guarnaschelli's roasted Braeburn apple jam. And of course, there are cookies. The issue's "Cookie Tip Book" promises to up your cookies-and-confections game with pro tips, great recipes, and useful advice for avoiding some common cookie pitfalls.
These magazines should help get you in the holiday spirit without feeling overwhelmed by the whole thing.
What about you? Any holiday cooking traditions you're excited for? Any new ideas you're interested in trying? Let us know in the comments!