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Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: White Hot Chocolate For A White Christmas

Tis’ the season for white hot chocolate. No matter what the weather is like where you live, you can have a white Christmas with a cup of it.

Here are two recipes that give a gourmet twist to hot chocolate. The second recipe, for hot chocolate on a stick, can be given as party favors and stocking stuffers.

The first recipe from the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel outside Chicago, which has been serving up the Christmastime concoction to guests in their fireside lounge. The blend of whole milk and half and half makes it very rich, indeed.


Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups half and half

    White hot chocolate is made with top quality white chocolate disks. Photo courtesy Schaumberg Renaissance Convention Center Hotel.

  • 10 ounces quality white chocolate (we use these Callebaut white chocolate disks)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • Optional garnish: shaved chocolate, cocoa powder and/or whipped cream (try this candy cane whipped cream recipe)


    1. COMBINE milk and half and half; heat to a slight simmer.

    2. SLOWLY whisk in chocolate and vanilla until the chocolate has fully melted.

    3. GARNISH as desired and serve.


    Hot chocolate on a stick: fun party favors
    and stocking stuffers. Photo courtesy


    Here’s a fun project: Make your own hot chocolate on a stick. This recipe from McCormick creates a fudgy square of peppermint-flavored white chocolate and a marshmallow on a lollipop stick. You swirl it into a cup of hot milk until it melts into rich, creamy and minty hot chocolate.

    You can wrap them in cellophane bags, tie with a ribbon and give them as gifts. The chocolate squares can be made up to two weeks in advance and assembled up to 2 days in advance.

    RECIPE: Peppermint White Hot Chocolate On A Stick

    Ingredients For 36 Pieces

  • 2 pounds white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 4 drops red food color
  • 18 large marshmallows, halved crosswise
  • 36 lollipop sticks

    1. LINE a 9-inch square baking pan with foil. Spray foil with no stick cooking spray. Place chopped chocolate in large bowl. Set aside.

    2. BRING sweetened condensed milk and cream to simmer in medium saucepan on medium heat, stirring frequently with wire whisk. Pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

    3. STIR in peppermint extract. Remove 3/4 cup chocolate mixture. Tint chocolate mixture pink with red food color.

    4. POUR remaining (plain) chocolate mixture into prepared pan. Drop tinted chocolate mixture by tablespoons over chocolate mixture in pan. Swirl with knife for marble effect. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight until firm. Cut into 36 squares. (May be made ahead to this point. Store chocolate mixture, tightly covered, in pan in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before cutting into squares.)

    5. ASSEMBLE: Thread a marshmallow half and a chocolate square onto each lollipop stick. Wrap each hot chocolate on a stick in plastic wrap or small cellophane bag.

    6. MAKE hot chocolate: Stir hot chocolate on a stick into 8 ounces hot milk.


    Most people use the terms interchangeably, but they’re actually different.

  • Cocoa is a drink made from cocoa powder, which has had a portion of the cocoa butter removed.
  • Hot chocolate is a drink made from actual chocolate, usually ground or shaved into small bits. Chocolate has more cocoa butter than cocoa powder, so it makes a richer drink, all things being equal (the same type of milk, e.g.).


    RECIPE: Candy Cane Whipped Cream, Egg Nog Whipped Cream

    Garnish your holiday desserts and beverages with a festive dollop of peppermint-flavored, candy cane-swirled whipped cream. It’s especially delicious on chocolate cake, pound cake and angel cake.


    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 4 drops red food color


    Peppermint whipped cream is an exhilarating topping for chocolate cake. Photo courtesy McCormick.


    1. BEAT cream, confectioners’ sugar and extracts in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.

    2. MAKE candy cane swirls: Remove 1/2 cup of the whipped cream to small bowl. Gently stir in red food color. Swirl into remaining whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


    Egg nog whipped cream, flecked with
    nutmeg. Photo courtesy McCormick.



    This is delicious on most cakes, apple pie and pecan pie.

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon rum extract

    1. BEAT cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and rum extract in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed, until stiff peaks form.


    2. COVER and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    See our other flavored whipped cream recipes, including Bourbon Whipped Cream, Salted Caramel Whipped Cream and Spiced Whipped Cream.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Red & Green Champagne Cocktails

    If your Christmas cocktail of choice is a fizzy one, you don’t need to spring for costly Champagne. Consider more affordable bubblies:

  • Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy
  • Cava from Spain
  • Crémant from France
  • Espumante from Portugal
  • Sekt from Germany
  • Sparklers from Austria, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.S. and other countries
    You can also serve red bubblies such as Italian Brachetto and Lambrusco or sparkling Shiraz.

    All can be made with ginger ale cocktail for non-drinkers and kids.

    For Christmas, the two sparkling cocktails below have a red or red and green color palate. Both are named for great Italian artists:


    What’s more Christmassy than a sparkling red cocktail? Photo of the Rossini Cocktail courtesy Chandon USA.


  • The great 19th century Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, author of “The Barber of Seville” and other memorable music
  • Tiziano Vecelli (Titian), the greatest Venetian painter of the sixteenth century and the father of modern painting

    Ingredients For 4 Cocktails

  • 6 ounces strawberry purée
  • Chilled Prosecco or other sparkler
  • Champagne flutes
  • Garnish: whole strawberry or blackberry (not frozen)* or three green grapes on a toothpick
    *Ideally the strawberry leaves will be green and perky. If the leaves are wilted, remove them and optionally combine the strawberry with a mint leaf on a cocktail pick or colored toothpick.


    The Tiziano Cocktail has a bonus treat:
    frozen grapes. Photo courtesy Harvard
    Common Presss.



    Ingredients For 4 Cocktails

  • 6 ounces white grape juice (not grape juice cocktail)
  • Chilled Prosecco or other sparkler
  • Frozen green and/or red grapes
  • Champagne flutes

    1. Add three or four frozen grapes to each flute glass.

    2. Pour 1½ ounces of grape juice into each flute.

    3. Fill the glasses almost to the top with Prosecco. Serve.

    This deep red cocktail is one of our favorites at any time of the year.


  • Creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur
  • Sparkling wine

    1. ADD cassis to taste to the bottom of the flute or tulip Champagne glass.

    2. GENTLY POUR the sparkling wine down the side of the glass. Stirring breaks the bubbles, so the better option is not to stir (if you must, stir once, very gently).


    Each is more delicious than the next. Check out the easy recipes.



    RECIPE: Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

    Delicious with wine or cocktails. Photo


    Want a hot and hearty hors d’oeuvre with cocktails? This sausage-stuffed mushroom recipe can be made up to 48 hours in advance, then baked right before you’re ready to serve.

    Baby portabella mushroom caps are stuffed with goat cheese, sausage and dried cranberries to create these a most attractive appetizer. A perfect party starter, stuff your mushroom caps up to 48 hours before you’re ready to serve, then bake when needed!


    Ingredients For 15 Mushroom Caps

  • 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian sausage, cooked
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 15 mushroom caps, stems removed
  • Nonstick olive oil spray


    1. PREHEAT oven to 400°F.

    2. COMBINE goat cheese, sausage, cranberries and garlic in a small bowl.

    4. SPOON filling into the center of each mushroom cap. Spray each mushroom with a thin layer of nonstick olive oil spray and place on a 13″ x 9″ baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and goat cheese filling is golden.

    This recipe was created by Cheekykitchen works exclusively for Good Cook. Visit for more delicious recipes.

    Find more recipes for in THE NIBBLE’S Appetizers & Hors d’Oeuvre Section.



    RECIPE: Spiced Cranberry Cocktail

    Still looking for the killer Christmas cocktail?

    Try this spiced Cranberry Cocktail from

    The special difference is simple syrup infused with allspice, cloves, fresh ginger, cinnamon and fresh cranberries; then blend with vodka and a splash of club soda. The cranberries and mint leaf are a perfect holiday garnish.

    The simple syrup can be made in advance (just simmer in a saucepan) and stored in the fridge.


    Ingredients For Simple Syrup

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 12 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole cloves

    The cocktail that shouts “Christmas!” Photo courtesy

  • 1 to 1-1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce cranberry syrup
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • Optional: 1/2 ounce triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • Ice
  • Garnish: uncooked whole cranberries and mint leaves

    1. MAKE simple syrup. Inspect your spices to be sure they are fresh. Allspice that’s been on your shelf for years won’t pack much of a punch.

    2. COMBINE water, sugar, allspice, cloves, ginger and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cranberries. Bring to a boil and boil until the cranberries pop, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for one hour. Then strain mixture through a fine sieve, gently pressing with the back of a rubber spatula or wood spoon to extract the juices. Cool and refrigerate until ready to make drink.

    3. COMBINE the cranberry syrup, optional triple sec and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Fill a rocks glass with ice and strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the glass. Top with club soda. Garnish and serve.

    Here’s the full recipe with step-by-step photos.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes.



    HOLIDAY: Family Favorite Jell-O Molds

    Mom’s Lime Gelatin Mold with sour cream
    and pineapple. Photo courtesy


    Mom’s recipe for a Pineapple-Lime Gelatin Mold has been part of our holiday for decades. The recipe arrived way back in the 1960s, on a box of lime Jell-O (we think). Made in a fluted mold, it became a family favorite at Christmas and Easter.

    Mom served it as a side with the turkey or ham; we enjoyed the leftovers as a sweet snack or dessert. And as simple as it is, it’s a favorite of our foodie friends, who invariably ask for the recipe.

    Alas, we didn’t have time to make it and shoot Mom’s recipe, so we’re grateful for the use of this photo from the blog Please Be Seated. It’s actually a different recipe—a cucumber lime mold—but it looks close enough. You can even use the cucumber slices and parsley as shown.

    Here’s the cucumber-lime mold recipe.

    We’ve also included a related recipe for a cranberry gelatin mold. Both are made in a six-cup fluted mold (or substitute any six cup mold you have).


    Ingredients For 10-12 Servings

  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) lime gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Optional garnish: clementine/tangerine segments, cucumber slices, grapes, kumquats, mint, parsley, whole cranberries

    1. DISSOLVE gelatin in water a large bowl. Stir in pineapple; cover and refrigerate until syrupy.

    2. WHISK in sour cream; add pecans. Transfer to a 6-cup ring mold coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Unmold onto a serving plate.

    3. BRING to table plain or filled with optional garnish.



    Ingredients For 10-12 Servings

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely ground
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges
  • 1 can (8 ounces) sliced pineapple
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional garnish: clementine/tangerine segments, grapes, kumquats, mint, parsley, whole cranberries

    Cranbrosia: cranberries, oranges, pineapple and sour cream. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.


    1. COMBINE combine cranberries and sugar in a bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes or until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.

    2. DRAIN juice from oranges and pineapple, reserving 3/4 cup juice. Cut pineapple into small pieces. Set fruit aside.

    3. SPRINKLE gelatin over reserved juice in a small saucepan; let stand for 1 minute. Cook and stir over low heat until gelatin is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add to cranberry mixture; stir in the oranges and pineapple. Fold in sour cream.

    4. BEAT cream until in a small bowl until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Fold into fruit mixture. Pour into a 6-cup ring mold or 12 individual molds lightly coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate until set. Unmold before serving.

    Thanks to Taste Of Home for this yummy recipe.



    RECIPE: Cranberry Infused Vodka

    Your own holiday bottling of cranberry
    infused vodka. Photo courtesy Prairie


    Make cranberry vodka to bring as a house gift or place on your own bar. It will be ready in three to four days.

    It’s easy to craft your own cranberry vodka infusion. Instead of vodka, you can use silver tequila, genever, Plymouth gin or a London gin with a low level of aromatics.

    This recipe is courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits, which makes both organic gin and vodka (including cucumber-infused vodka) in Minnesota.

    The vodka is handcrafted with single vintage organic corn. The line is certified organic by the USDA, which ensures that no genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used. The price: just $19.99 for a 750 ml bottle.




  • Whole fresh cranberries
  • Whole cloves
  • Vodka


    1. POUR 1/3 of the vodka into a pitcher or a measuring cup with a spout and set aside.

    2. FILL the empty bottle space with cranberries and cloves.

    3. TOP OFF the bottle with the reserved vodka and tightly securing the cap.

    4. STORE in the fridge or in dark, cool space for three to four days. Then, it’s ready to serve.

    How about:

  • Espresso-Cinnamon for Valentine’s Day
  • Jalapeño-Horseradish-Garlic for Cinco de Mayo
  • Honeycrisp Apple for Mother’s Day
  • Lemon Lime for Spring
  • Orange-Tangerine for Winter
  • Strawberry Basil for Summer

    It’s easy to infuse vodka: Just add simple ingredient to the bottle. Photo courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits.


    Download the pdfs at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Gingerbread Cupcakes

    Gingerbread cupcakes with “gingerbread
    cookie” frosting and a gingersnap cookie
    garnish. Photo courtesy Pillsbury.


    If you want gingerbread for Christmas Eve but don’t want the chore of rolling out gingerbread men, these easy gingerbread cupcakes from Pillsbury will also delight.

    The frosting is made from Biscoff Spread,* ground spice (spéculoos) cookies in a creamy base. In Europe, it’s called spéculoos spread.

    The all-natural, nut-free spread is made of 57% ground spéculoos cookies (the national cookie of Belgium). And it is luscious.

    Unless you have some relationship to Belgium, France or Holland—or fly Delta Airlines, where they are served as a snack—you may not have heard of spéculoos (SPECK-you-loose; in Dutch, it’s speculaas, pronounced SPECK-e-lahs) cookies. In the U.S. they have been sold as Dutch Windmill cookies.

    You can find Biscoff Spread in the peanut butter section. Trader Joe’s carries a private label version called Cookie Butter.



  • 1 roll (30 ounces) Pillsbury refrigerated gingerbread cookies
  • 4 eggs
  • Optional: extra roll Pillsbury refrigerated gingerbread cookies to bake into gingersnap
  • Muffin pan
  • Paper baking cups
    For The Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup Biscoff/Cookie Butter Spread
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • Pinch of salt

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Place a paper baking cup in each of 10 regular-size muffin cups.

    2. BRING refrigerated cookie dough to room temperature (let stand on counter for about 10 minutes). Then break up in a large bowl. Add eggs and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until well combined and smooth. Spoon into baking cups.

    3. BAKE 14 to 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Remove muffin cups from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile…

    4. MAKE the frosting. Beat the butter and cookie butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, whipping cream and salt until fluffy. Place in decorating bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes.

    5. GARNISH with a gingersnap cookie.

    *The name is a truncation of “biscuits for coffee.”



    RECIPE: Roasted Beet, Avocado and Granny Smith Apple Towers

    Here’s a tasty first course in Christmas colors. It’s one of the many recipes on


    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 3 medium beets, scrubbed with leaves trimmed
  • 1 medium size, ripe Haas avocados
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, diameter close to apples
  • ½ cups goat cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional:¼ cups parsley, roughly chopped
  • Optional: 2 tablespooons pine nuts
  • Lemon juice as needed

    1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F. WASH and scrub the beets. Pat dry.


    Festive starter: a Beet, Avocado and Apple Tower. Photo courtesy The Amazing Avocado.


    2. PLACE beets on large piece of aluminum foil. Lightly coat with olive oil. Add dash of salt and pepper. For even roasting, wrap foil over, covering beets completely, and crimp ends. Roast until cooked through, 30- 50 minutes. Remove, uncover and let cool. Do not discard oil in the foil; you can use it later as dressing.

    3. CUT the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pit and skin. Place the flat side down on a cutting board. Slice horizontally. Squeeze lemon juice on to prevent browning. Cut Granny Smith apple the same way, but leave skin on. Squeeze lemon juice on to prevent browning.

    4. COOL beets until you can handle them. Slip their peels off using your fingers or a paring knife. Slice crosswise. Stack on plate alternating beets, apples and avocados.

    5. SPRINKLE crumbled goat cheese over top. Garnish with parsley and pine nuts if desired. Drizzle the used olive oil from roasting and the rest of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.



    FOOD FUN: Penguin Oreos

    The perfect Oreo for Christmas, New Year’s
    Eve and black tie occasions. Photo courtesy
    Mackenzie Limited.


    How do you make Oreo cookie even better?

    Turn them into penguins!

    These adorable Oreo penguins aren’t inexpensive: 12 cookies are $42.95 at

    But if you’re game to make your own, head to the store for the ingredients to make your own.



  • A jumbo bag of Oreos (ideally Double Stuff Oreos)
  • Dark and white chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
  • Red and yellow food color-or-gumdrops, Starbursts or other orange candies for beak and feet
  • Wax paper
  • 2 quart-size plastic storage bags

    1. MELT dark chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Dip Oreos completely in the chocolate and set on wax paper to harden, about 10 minutes. We used tweezers to hold an edge of the cookie. Then, after we set the cookie on the wax paper, we added a dab of chocolate to the small “naked” spot.

    2. HARDEN and when the chocolate has set, melt the white chocolate in the same manner. Transfer into the plastic storage baggie. Cut a small corner off the bag and draw the “vest” on each cookie. Don’t worry if your lines aren’t as perfect as the professional version—they used specialty tools to achieve perfection.

    3. CREATE the beaks and feet. After the white chocolate has set, melt another batch of white chocolate and use food color to make it orange. Transfer to the other plastic storage bag to pipe the beaks and feet. (Unless you’ve got a great hand, it’s best to omit the bow tie.)

    4. CREATE eyes by dabbing white and dark chocolate with a toothpick. Let harden and store in an airtight cookie tin between sheets of wax paper until ready to serve.



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