Merry Monday | Christmastime is Here

Christmas Tree 2016

The holiday is less than one week away! Are you just as excited as I am? Well I can’t wait for Christmas to get here. I just love the holiday and hanging out with family and friends. It is the time for shared recipes, food, fun, games, and of course gifts. So I’m sharing some holiday favorites to share with others this season.

Food is an important part of the holiday. It is something that can be shared and provides comfort to all. Drink is just as important and fun to share. I love cranberries and being the ingredient of the holiday season, it’s readily available to put in everything. This Orange Cranberry Bread recipe from Two Peas and their Pod is one that is worth trying and definitely good for sharing.

Orange Cranberry Bread via Two Peas and the Pod

Orange Cranberry Bread


For the bread:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries

For the orange glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest


1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk into the flour mixture. Set aside.

3. In a separate medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla.

4. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in the cranberries. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

5. Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. If your loaf starts to get too brown drape a piece of foil over the top to finish baking. I did this during the last 10 minutes of the baking time.

6. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a knife. Carefully remove loaf from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.

7. While the bread is cooling, make the orange glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange zest. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the bread. Cut and serve.

*Note-store the bread, wrapped, on the counter for 2-3 days.

yield: 1 loaf prep time: 20 minutes cook time: 70-75 minutes total time: 95 minutes

When I worked at Williams-Sonoma during the holidays, my favorite thing was walking in the store to the smell of mulling spices. We would make it in the store every morning and it would drift through the halls of the mall and draw in a lot of our customers. Even to simply ask what that smell was. The recipe is pretty simple. You can add wine to make things more festive.

Mulled Wine via Williams-Sonoma

Mulled Wine


12 whole cloves

2 nutmegs, cracked into pieces with a hammer

2 bottles (each 750ml) dry red wine

1/2 cup sugar

Stripped zest from 2 oranges and 2 lemons, plus more zest for garnish

3/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks


Tie the cloves and nutmeg pieces in a small square of cheesecloth, or put them in a large metal tea ball.

In a large non-aluminum pot, combine the wine, sugar, orange and lemon zests, orange and lemon juices, and cinnamon sticks. Add the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise from the pot and the mixture is hot, about 10 minutes; do not let it boil. Remove the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Keep the wine warm over very low heat until ready to serve.

Ladle the wine into cups or heatproof glasses, garnish with the citrus zest and serve warm. Serves 8 to 10.

*Note: Try Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spices to make things a little simpler. You can take out the wine for a non-alcoholic version and substitute it for apple cider, which is what we used in the store.

Another drink of the season is hot cocoa. Whether plain or with specialty toppings, it is sure to warm the soul and make things more cozy. Add these cute mini marshmallows to make your cup a little more festive and fun!

Mini Vanilla Marshmallows via Williams-Sonoma

Try this mint hot chocolate recipe.

Mint Hot Chocolate

Mint Hot Chocolate


1/4 cup chilled heavy cream

4 Tbs. sugar

3 Tbs. Dutch process cocoa powder

4 cups milk

4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped, plus 1/2
oz., shaved

1/2 tsp. peppermint extract


In a bowl, beat the cream and 1 Tbs. of the sugar until soft peaks form. Cover the whipped cream and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar and the cocoa. Gradually whisk in the milk. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract.

Divide the hot chocolate among warmed mugs. Top each with a dollop of the whipped cream. Sprinkle with the shaved chocolate and serve immediately.

Beef Short Ribs Empanadas via Saueur Magazine

Beef Short Ribs Empanadas


7 tbsp. pork lard or vegetable shortening (3 12 oz.)
1 12 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. kosher salt
6 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz. boneless beef short rib meat, cut into 12-inch cubes
2 medium white onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
12 tsp. merkén or hot paprika
14 tsp. ground black pepper
12 cup minced green olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut crosswise into 6 slices each
1 egg white, lightly beaten


For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the 3 tablespoons lard with 1 12 tablespoons salt and 2 cups boiling water, stirring until the lard melts. Add the flour and mix on medium-low speed until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Scrape the dough onto a work surface and cut into quarters. Shape each quarter into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough balls for at least 1 hour.
For the filling: In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons lard over high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until browned, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, the oregano, cumin, paprika, and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Return the beef to the pan with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow, steady simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender and the sauce is reduced, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the heat and let the filling cool.
Heat the oven to 425°. Place 1 dough ball on a floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, flatten until 18-inch thick. Using a 5-inch round cutter, cut out 6 circles of dough and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Working with one circle at a time, place 1 12 tablespoons filling in the middle, and top with 1 teaspoon olives and 1 egg slice. Moisten the edge of the circle with water and fold in half to form a turnover, crimping the dough to seal. Return the empanada to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough, filling, olives, and eggs.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each empanada with the egg white and then bake, one sheet at a time and rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and hot, about 25 minutes.
Merry Christmas!
However you celebrate Christmas or the surrounding holidays, please remember those who may not have family and friends to share this season with. Be thankful for those you have and all your blessings. Enjoy the season!
Merry Christmas!