Dennis selected a superb tree this year and we doubled the number of lights so it’s very twinkly. It’s made me so happy to have light in the house. These early December days when it gets dark so early can be difficult, but with all this twinkling, I am feeling pretty cheerful. I have so many reasons to be grateful, and one reason is all of you, my dear readers.
To get in the spirit, as I do every year, I embarked on the usual holiday cookie craziness. Just check my Instagram feed to see all the baking and candymaking. At the end of it all, we shipped out dozens of tins to friends near and far. Once I make all the cookies I’ve been making for years (because recipients get snarly when you change up the mix), I make a few new cookies for us to try, especially the ones in the Washington Post’s annual cookie round up. Aren’t these Vanilla and Chocolate Shortbread Bird Houses adorable? I hope to make them sometime soon.
In the midst of all the madness, we’ve had several parties and I’ve been cooking up a storm. I made this divine Mac and Cheese THREE times for 3 different parties.
While a little frantic, it’s made me very happy. There was Thanksgiving, our annual Dead Poultry Society party, two casual dinner parties last weekend and a big, multi-course dinner party this weekend (to test recipes for an upcoming series of classes in Texas.)
Through it all, I had a chance to read and cook from several new cookbooks, discovering marvelous recipes, learning techniques, and reading warm, engaging introductions and headnotes. A good cookbook is such a treat.
In Abby Dodge’s EVERYDAY BAKER, it was the Smoked Paprika Gouda Bites that got me. Holy moley, people. These are homemade cheezits. But better. Punchier. Cheezier. And Abby taught me a new technique – fraisage . Every detail was spelled out. It was like having Abby saying Attagirl at every step. The book covers every single aspect of baking and pastry, detailing complex techniques throughout. The recipes are mouthwatering. The photos are either informative, technical, process shots — SUCH a helpful way to visualize the trickier aspects of baking, or lush shots of finished baked goodies. Every baker out there needs this book. It’s the new gold standard. And I’m giving one away.
After packing 15 boxes of cookies and taping and labeling and wrestling them all to the post office, it was time for a soul-satisfying dinner. Gazing into the refrigerator, I spied a tub of excellent creamery yogurt and immediately thought of Cheryl Sternman Rule’s sensational book, cleverly titled YOGURT CULTURE. In short order, with a jar of my own canned tomatoes, we were enjoying a twist on vodka sauce — Creamy Pasta Marinara — made with yogurt. I love this book for the peek into yogurt’s influence in so many cultures. Cheryl’s recipes are everything! I adore her warm, often funny, headnotes and the range of offerings: complex and pure, easy and more challenging, sweet and savory. I’m working my way from the beginning to the end, finding new ways to incorporate yogurt into all sorts of recipes. I have one copy to give away.
After I finish all my baking projects, there are always half bags of nuts, dried fruits and chocolate bits in the pantry. I need a recipe that uses them all. This year, I turned to Domenica Marchetti’s charming CIAO, BISCOTTI and found just what I needed. The Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti are delicious and so pretty when packed in a glassine bag and tied with a ribbon. This sweet book is filled with Domenica’s take on sweet and savory biscotti, as well as advice on shaping and slicing. I’ve got one of these books to give away, too!
And last, but by no means least, is Maggie Battista’s charming FOOD GIFT LOVE. Every single recipes looks delicious. I made Jammy Marshmallows to use up some loose raspberry jam/sauce and they are completely charming and delicious. They are my everything. Maggie’s stylish packaging ideas will inspire you to dress up your own homemade gifts and her recipes will get you going in new directions. I am inspired to delve into flavored salts and infused honey, two new DIY playgrounds! Yup. I’ve got one of these books to give away, too.
So, here’s how to get on my gift list. Just leave a comment before 9pm EST on Thursday, December 24. Tell me the best homemade gift you have either given or received. Ever. I’ll use RANDOMIZER to select four winners and randomly decide who gets what. It’s a gift! You’ll be surprised!
I’ll announce the winners on my Facebook page on Christmas morning. It will be almost like having a package under the tree.
HappyWhateverYouCelebrate and AllMyVeryBestWishes for the New Year,
(PS All these books were written by dear friends.)