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Archive for Holidays & Occasions

HAPPY CHANUKAH ~ MERRY CHRISTMAS

Bagel Tree Ornament

   
 
 
 
Only 4 times in the last 100 years
has Chanukah fallen on Christmas Eve.

Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!

Say hello to Chanukah Harry!

 

 
  

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TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Types Of Christmas Muffins

We first read Little Women in our tween years. Far into adulthood, we re-read it every few years and watch the showing on TV:

  • The 1933 original with Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas, Jean Parker, Frances Dee et al.
  • The 1994 remake with Winona Ryder, Kristen Dunst, Gabriel Byrne, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Susan Sarandon et al.
  •  
    The biographical novel takes place during the Civil War—although far away from it, in Concord, Massachusetts. As the novel opens, four teenage sisters, their mother and the family retainer are living in reduced circumstances, while the father is away ministering to the troops.

    The family is struggling to make ends meet, and the sisters are about to sit down to a special Christmas breakfast, when their mother asks if they will give up their meal to a suffering immigrant family whose father [presumably] has passed away. They are living in a shack with no food or firewood, and a broken window to boot.

    In the true spirit of Christmas charity, the girls pack up their breakfast and carry it to the desperate family.

    The passage reminds us that, no matter how poor the Marches may seem, true poverty and suffering is vastly different.
     
    OUR CHRISMAS MUFFIN INSPIRATION

    We were inspired by the Christmas story and began to donate a week’s allowance to the Salvation Army. We also induced our mom to create the March Christmas breakfast for us.

    The novel is scant on details, but mentions cream, muffins, buckwheat [probably porridge] and bread.* Mom made buckwheat blini with sour cream and salmon caviar, omelets and muffins with raisins and pecans. We had cream instead of the usual milk in our tea. It became an annual event until we grew up and moved away.

    Fortunately, NIBBLE readers can afford a fine Christmas breakfast. If you’re not a big breakfast eater, you can still enjoy fresh-baked muffins, and cream in your tea or coffee.

    Here are 12 recipes to consider—one for each of the 12 days of Christmas—beginning with gingerbread muffins from I Heart Eating.

     
    RECIPE #1: GINGERBREAD MUFFINS

    Ingredients For 12 Muffins

  • 2½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk low-fat ok
  • 1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Optional garnish: 2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
  • Optional: fresh sweet butter† for serving
  •  
    ________________
    *A Victorian breakfast would have included eggs baked in cream, sausages, potatoes, biscuits, fruit and a Christmas pudding.

    †For special occasions, we spring for Kerrygold, Plugrá or our favorite European-style cultured butter from Vermont Creamery.

     

    Cranberry Muffins

    Gingerbread Muffins

    Ginger Fig Muffins

    Strawberry Marzipan Muffins

    [1] Cranberry streusel muffins from Eats Well With Others. [2] Gingerbread muffins from I Heart Eating. [3] Ginger-fig muffins made with fig jam, from Dave Bakes. [4] Strawberry marzipan muffins from Sandra Lee.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or grease with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl, combine. Set aside.

    3. WHISK together the coconut oil and brown sugar in a separate large bowl. Whisk in the molasses, then whisk in the egg. Add the milk and yogurt and whisk until well-combined. Finally, add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

    3. SCOOP the batter into muffin cups (the cups will be full). Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar (a.k.a. decorating sugar, coarse sugar). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
     
    11 MORE CHRISTMAS MUFFIN IDEAS

  • RECIPE #1: Apple Cider Muffins With Cinnamon Chips
  • RECIPE #2: Apple-Pecan Streusel Muffins
  • RECIPE #3: Cranberry Bliss Muffins With Cream Cheese Frosting
  • RECIPE #4: Cranberry Eggnog Muffins
  • RECIPE #5: Fruitcake Muffins (add an optional tablespoon of orange liqueur)
  • RECIPE #6: Ginger Fig Muffins
  • RECIPE #7: Meyer Lemon, Cranberry & Poppyseed Muffins
  • RECIPE #8: Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Morning Muffins
  • RECIPE #9: Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
  • RECIPE #10: Orange-Cranberry-Marzipan Muffins
  • RECIPE #11: Strawberry Marzipan Muffins
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Quick Chocolate Dipping Sauce With Biscotti Or Ladyfingers

    If friends and neighbors are dropping by for some holiday cheer, here’s a very quick recipe for a delicious snack. It works well as a quick dessert, too.

    Keep biscotti around—they have a long shelf life—or ladyfingers, which freeze well and can be revived in a minute in the microwave. Then, in less than five minutes, make this chocolate dipping sauce.

    The combination goes with brandy, coffee, cola, fruity red wine, liqueurs, tea, and of course, a glass of milk.

    Cubed pound cake, amaretto cookies and/or sliced fruit are also delicious with the chocolate sauce. Chocoholics may prefer brownie cubes or fingers.

    The recipe makes enough for eight two-cookie servings. We turned to one of our favorite holiday snacks, Nonni’s Biscotti.

    As a bonus, Nonni’s isn’t rock-hard like conventional biscotti made for dipping in coffee or a dessert wine like vin santo. You don’t have to dip it…although don’t hesitate to follow the tradition.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE FOR

    This festive but easy recipe, which we adapted from Nescafé, is presented as individual servings.

    But if you have a fondue pot, chafing dish, brazier, or other way to keep the chocolate sauce warm, you can set it on a table with a platter of biscotti, ladyfingers and other cookies.

    Apple wedges and orange segments also works.

    Ingredients

  • 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coffee or orange liqueur (e.g. Kahlúa, Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 16 to 24 biscotti or ladyfingers
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Optional: cayenne for a bit of heat
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT. Place chocolate and cream in a medium, microwave-safe dish. Microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 60 seconds. Stir with whisk until smooth.

    2. COMBINE. Whisk in liqueur and coffee granules until coffee is dissolved.

    3. ASSEMBLE. Divide the chocolate sauce among 8 small dessert dishes or whatever you have: brandy snifters, ramekins, rocks glasses, small wine glasses, tea cups, etc). Place 2 to 3 ladyfingers to each glass. Serve immediately.

    Alternative: Use a plate under the dish and put the biscotti on the plate.

    Tip: Serve with espresso spoons so everyone can scoop up the remaining chocolate sauce.
     
    Find more of our favorite desserts.
     
    ABOUT NONNI’S BISCOTTI

    Nonni’s Biscotti is the number one-selling biscotti brand in the U.S.

    Whether for a coffee break, snack or part of dessert, we’ve been enjoying Nonni’s since they came onto the market in 2012. There are flavors for everyone, plus special holiday editions.

     

    Dipping Biscotti

    Hot Chocolate With Biscotti

    [1] Warm chocolate dipping sauce with biscotti or ladyfingers: a quick and easy snack or dessert. Photo and recipe courtesy Nescafé. [2] Dip from a tea cup or whatever you have (photo courtesy Feast And Fable Blog. [3] Instead of gingerbread men, serve hot chocolate with Nonni’s holiday biscotti. Don’t want hot chocolate? The biscotti are great with coffee, brandy and liqueurs (photo courtesy Nonni’s). [4] Pick up a few boxes and treat family and friends (photo | THE NIBBLE).

     
    Nonni means “grandmother” in certain Italian dialects (nonna is mainstream Italian). As you might guess, the founder’s nonni came from Italy (almost a century ago), bringing the family recipe with her.

    Nonni never envisioned or Salted Caramel (our personal favorite) or Turtle Pecan biscotti; but thankfully, her grandson did. There are eight flavors, plus seasonal specialties like Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice.

    There are also five flavors (including cranberry) of Nonni’s ThinAddictives, a lower-calorie option.
     

    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF BISCOTTI.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Latkes & Beyond

    Classic Latkes

    Potato Pancakes

    Potato Cauliflower Latkes

    Latke Smoked Salmon Caviar

    [1] Nana’s latkes, served with applesauce and sour cream (photo courtesy Melissa’s).[2] A more elegant presentation (from Anne Fruart via Vermont Creamery. [3] Mix it up: potato latkes with cauliflower from Idaho Potatoes (recipe at right). [4] Our personal heaven: latkes with smoked salmon, caviar, filled sour cream and a bit of chive (photo courtesy Diva Eats World).

     

    You might prefer the parting of the Red Sea, the when God delivered the 10 Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, or Passover, when 10 plagues passed over the households of the children of Israel and wreaked havoc on all others, culminating in the Exodus, freedom from slavery.

    But our favorite Hebrew miracle is the Chanukah lamp oil. resulting in the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the miracle of a temple lamp (menorah) which had enough purified the oil for one day. It would take a week to make more purified oil. But a miracle occurred: After the the menorah was lit, the flames burned for eight days—by which time new vats of purified oil were ready.

    Why is it our favorite Jewish holiday? It comes with fried food, commemorating the lamp oil. That includes latkes, fried potato pancakes.

    THE HISTORY OF LATKES

    The popular potato latkes of European Jewish cuisine descend from Sicilian ricotta pancakes that appeared in the Middle Ages. They traveled north to Roman, where the Jewry called them cassola. Here’s a recipe for ricotta latkes. Traditionally sweetened, you can make a savory version with herbs instead of sugar.

    Potato latkes (meaning “fried cakes” in Yiddish) are an Ashkenazi invention that gained popularity in Eastern Europe during the mid 1800s.

    While the ricotta pancakes, a cousin to cheese blintzes are delicious, our bet is that most people would rather have fried potatoes!

    Here’s a longer history of latkes in Idaho Potato (photo #3).

    RECIPE #1: POTATO, ONION & CAULIFLOWER LATKES

    In addition to varying the latke ingredients, you can try different condiments. We made a curry-yogurt dip for these.

    Ingredients

  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 4 Idaho baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Topping (see below)
     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the cauliflower florets in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times until it resembles a rice texture. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

    2. ADD the onion to the food processor and pulse a few times until it is very finely chopped; add to the mixing bowl.

    3. REPLACE the steel blade with a shredding blade or attachment and feed the potato pieces through the tube until all are shredded. Add to the mixing bowl.

    4. ADD the eggs, flour, salt, pepper and parsley to the bowl and combine thoroughly. If liquid begins to accumulate at the bottom, remove with a spoon.

    5. HEAT the oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan and add scoopfuls of the mixture to form pancakes. Fry for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve with sour cream, Greek yogurt or other garnish of choice.

  •  

    FOR THE TOPPING

    You can serve more than one topping. Our mom always served sour cream and her homemade applesauce (as did her mom); but this is another century. Try fusion seasonings, go crazy (within reason) with toppings like cardamom applesauce, curried Greek yogurt or 3-herb sour cream.

  • Dairy: crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, sour cream
  • Fruit sauce: apple sauce, cranberry sauce
  • Salsa (corn, corn and bean or tomato)
  • Poached egg (for a main course)
  • Gourmet: smoked salmon and salmon caviar (or other roe)
  •  
    Plus

  • Chopped fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, thyme
  • Mesclun salad
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables, ratatouille or other vegetable medley
  • Pesto
  • Asian slaw (no mayo), cucumber salad, carrot-raisin salad, etc.
  •  

    BEYOND POTATO LATKES

    And here’s an even more veg-centric recipe from Good Eggs: the classic potato-onion combination with parsnips, carrots and leeks.

    And for beet lovers, there are (drum roll) beet latkes. Try them now or save them for Valentine’s Day. Serve them Russian style with fresh dill and sour cream.

    You can also make parsnip-centric latkes, carrot and raisin latkes: Go wherever your palate takes you.

    Want cheese with your latkes? Start with this recipe for Ginger Pancakes With Herbed Goat Cheese by Najwa Kronfel of Delicious Shots.

    RECIPE #2: VEGETABLE LATKES

    In photo #5, these latkes are paired with a crunchy Asian slaw.

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1 white onion, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • ¾ pounds parsnip, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Canola oil
  • Coarse salt
  •  
    Toppings

  • Arugula pesto
  • Apple sauce
  • Crème fraîche
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the peeled potatoes and onions in a big bowl; mix with your hands. In another bowl, combine the peeled parsnips, leeks and carrots.

    2. SQUEEZE the excess liquid out of the potato-onion mixture, using your hands, a clean kitchen towel, cheesecloth or your hands. (We use a large strainer and press down the mixture.). Place in a separate bowl and add the eggs, a few big pinches of salt and flour—again mixing with your hands. Form patties about 3 inches in diameter and just shy of an inch thick. Do the same for the parsnip mixture.

    3. ADD oil to a large skillet, until it’s about ¼-inch deep. Heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the first batch of latkes, leaving plenty of room between each of them. Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side until they’re a deep golden brown on each side, and fully cooked through.

    4. DRAIN: Place the latkes on a platter or in a baking sheet/dish covered in paper towels and sprinkle with flakey salt immediately. Keep the latkes warm in an oven set to very low. Repeat until you’ve cooked all of the latkes.

     

    Latkes With Slaw

    Beet Latkes

    Carrot Latkes

    [5] Latkes with four different veggies and a side of Asian slaw, from Good Eggs (recipe at left). [6] Beet latkes from Williams-Sonoma. Here’s the recipe. [7] Carrot latkes from Elana’s Pantry.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Mulled Wine

    She uses a slow cooker: a great way to mull wine or cider without having to tend to it.

    After years of serving mulled wine, we realized that the popular garnishes are wasteful: They can’t be eaten, and are tossed out. That means you, cinnamon sticks, curls of peel, raw cranberries and star anise. So, we’ve settled on a seasonal garnishes that is edible, attractive and aromatic:

  • Orange wheel for the rim, especially blood orange; or a wedge studded with a few cloves for the aroma.
  • We’ve also made a glass rim of orange zest with a bit of superfine sugar.
  • For the same reason, we add dried cranberries to the pot instead of whole cranberries.
  •  
    We start with a conventional recipe and end up with a slow cooker alternative. Slow mulling is great because it doesn’t take up a stove top burner that you may need for cooking.
     
    TIPS

  • the juice and the brandy bring the yield to 46 ounces. If you’re serving 6-ounce portions in 8-ounce cups, that’s roughly 6 servings.
  • Make a batch without alcohol: mulled Apple cider with cranberry juice.
  •  
    RECIPE #1: CRANBERRY MULLED WINE

    We adapted this classic recipe from Wine And Glue.

    TIP: Serve mulled wine in a glass vessel. If you don’t have glass mugs or Irish Coffee glasses, consider getting some. They’re not more than $5 apiece, and you can use them year-round for any hot beverage. Rocks glasses and stemmed wine glasses also work.

    Ingredients

  • 750 ml bottle Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Zinfandel (un-oaked)
  • 1-1/2 cups brandy
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 oranges, sliced and studded with 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 1 cup cranberry juice (not cranberry drink or cocktail)
  • 1/3 cup honey or sugar (we prefer the flavor nuances of honey and use only 1/4 cup for less sweetness, more sophisticated flavor)
  • Optional: 5 cardamom pods, bruised
  •    

    Holiday Mulled Wine

    Orange Studded With Cloves

    [1] The conventional garnishes look beautiful, but you can’t eat them (photo courtesy Kitchen Treaty). [2] Our favorite garnish: an orange wedge (edible) studded with a few cloves (photo courtesy The Guardian).

     
    Variations

  • If you have cranberry liqueur, you can substitute it for all or part of the brandy.
  • Ditto for orange liqueur, like Grand Marnier.
  • Both of these will change the flavor profile a bit: more cranberry or orange flavor.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a low simmer for 10 minutes. You don’t want the alcohol to evaporate.

    2. SERVE warm. If you don’t have glass cups or mugs, you can also use stemmed wine glasses or rocks glasses.
     
    RECIPE #2: SLOW COOKER CRANBERRY MULLED WINE

    We adapted this recipe from Kate at Kitchen Treaty.

    Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Zinfandel
  • 2 cups cranberry* juice (not cranberry cocktail)
  • 1 cup whole cranberries
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (substitute honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 medium orange
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • Garnishes of choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the wine, orange juice, cranberries, and sugar to a 3-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir to help the sugar dissolve.

    2. SCRUB the orange, stud it with cloves and add it to the pot. If you don’t have the time to insert the cloves, just toss them into the pot separately. There are two techniques to stud an orange: use a thimble on your finger (pushing in more than a few starts to dent your finger) or first make holes with an ice pick or toothpick.

    3. COOK on low for 2-3 hours, until the cranberries are tender. Be sure not to boil. Remove the orange and the cinnamon sticks, then carefully pour the mulled wine through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Use the back of a large spoon to press on the cranberries and release the juices. Return the wine to the slow cooker and stir in the brandy. Taste and adjust the sweetness until it’s just sweet enough (the sweetness should be more elegant than a soft drink!).

    4. LADLE into mugs, garnish as desired and serve. Keep the slow cooker on the low setting so guests can help themselves to refills. Kitchen Treaty advises that if kept on low for more than three hours, it will boil—and boil off the alcohol.

     

    Mulled Wine Recipe

    Mulled Wine

    [3] and [4] Glass mugs or rocks glasses make mulled wine look even better (photo #1 courtesy Gimme Some Oven. Ali adds star anise to her recipe. Photo #2 courtesy Gordon Ramsay Group).

     

    RECIPE #3: MULLED WINE WITH VODKA

    This ingredient comes from Ocean Spray. The vodka is optional, but we highly recommend it!
     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1-1/2 cups Ocean Spray 100% Juice Cranberry Juice Blend
  • 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 6 whole cardamom pods
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 6 ounces lemon flavored Vodka (substitute other citrus vodka or plain vodka)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries/Craisins
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients except the vodka, dried cranberries and almonds in a large saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce the heat and simmer 15 for minutes.

    2. STRAIN to remove the spices. Stir in the vodka,

    3. PLACE 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries and 1-1/2 teaspoons almonds in the bottom of each glass or mug. Pour the in mulled wine and serve.
     
    WHAT DOES “MULLED” MEAN?

    According to Harvard University, the origin of the word “mull” to mean heated and spiced is shrouded in mystery. Mulling spices can include allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns and/or star anise. A “mulled” drink is one which has been prepared with these spices. The same spices can be added to the brewing process to make spiced beer.

    The custom is believed to have originated in northern Europe to use wine that had gone bad. The spices covered up the off taste, along with additions such as apples, oranges and dried fruits, including raisins.

     
    The technique is to heat the liquids with the spices and then strain them out before serving.

    The expression “cup of good cheer” comes to us from Merrie Olde England, referring to hot mulled cider and wine.

    “Wassail” (WASS-ul), meaning good health, began as a greeting among Anglo-Saxons, who inhabited England from the 5th century. They comprised Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, and initially spoke what we today call Old English.

    Centuries later, the term evolved into a drinking toast. The wassail bowl tradition began in the 14th century in southern England, home to apple groves galore and a lot of apple cider. The first wassail bowls contained hot mulled cider. When you come across references to “a cup of good cheer,” it refers to mulled cider or wine.

      

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