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Seared Scallops with Leek Risotto and Lemon-Brown Butter Sauce

Seared Scallops with Leek Risotto and Lemon-Brown Butter Sauce - Romance is all about making great combinations. Scallops and risotto are two dishes that many people are nervous about making, but take the plunge. Trust us: it's easier than you think.  Look, nobody...
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Braised Short Ribs with Honey, Soy and Orange

These braised short ribs are cooked low and slow in a delectable sauce flavored with soy, honey, orange and Chinese 5-spice powder. A hearty cold-weather recipe!

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Brownie Cookies Filled With Peanut Butter Buttercream

Creamy peanut butter buttercream sandwiched between two moist, fudgey brownies, rolled in crushed salted peanuts. Simply the most delicious cookies we’ve ever made.

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Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Oatmeal Lace CookiesOatmeal Lace Cookies. So pretty. So crispy. They get their name from the fact that they are so delicate, you can almost see through them – like lace. Fancy!

These oatmeal lace cookies have always had a hallowed place in our holiday gift-bag lineup, along with pecan crescents and English toffee with chocolate. They’re a lot of fun to make and are always a great hit.

I actually have two different recipes that I use for Lace cookies (I’ll blog the other one another time) but I prefer this version for the holidays because it makes a slightly less fragile cookie.  That means you can actually give them as gifts without worrying that they will become a pile of oat dust by the time someone receives them. “Happy Christmas, friend! Enjoy!” (Friend opens box, sees a mound of crumbs). “Um…thanks?” (friend gives cookies to dog).

Oatmeal Lace Cookies

 

Pecan Crescent Cookies

Pecan Crescent Cookies

We make these pecan crescent cookies every year as a Christmas treat – the melt-in-the-mouth, nutty, crumbly treats will please any crowd. 

Pecan Crescent CookiesYou know a cookie is a classic when every person who tastes one says “Ermahgerd, gramma’s kerkies!” (translation: Oh my god, my grandmother used to make those cookies). Whether your grandmother was Italian, Jewish, Latin American, Scandinavian, or Asgardian, chances are, she made these cookies (Well, not my grandmother, who was a famously terrible cook).

Sometimes it’s just nostalgia that makes us swoon over a taste of the past but in this case, familiarity is unnecessary. These pecan crescent cookies are good. They have a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread-like texture and a lovely deep nuttiness.  It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without them.

Nerd Tips:
  • Toast the pecans well, but don’t scorch them. I like to do them in a skillet (medium heat, tossing often, about 5-7 minutes until you can smell a nutty aroma). You can also do them in them oven on a baking sheet (325 degrees F, 10-15 minutes, turn them once).
  • Make sure the dough is fully chilled before shaping the crescents, but you’ll need to let the dough warm up a tad from the fridge or it will be hard to work with.
  • They won’t really change color much in the baking process, but do make sure the very edges turn a light golden brown. 18 minutes might be enough, but don’t be afraid to leave in a few minutes longer if needed.
  • Don’t try to sugar the pecan crescent cookies until they’ve completely cooled (overnight is best) or the sugar will melt. Sometimes I sugar them twice to make them extra perty. If you’re serving to fancy people, you’ll probably want to arrange them using tongs, since fingers will very easily melt the sugar.

Pecan Crescent Cookies

Ultimate English Toffee

Ultimate English Toffee

Ultimate English Toffee

Ultimate English Toffee with white and dark chocolate layers

NOTE: This recipe has two toppings – White Chocolate & Pistachio, and Dark Chocolate, Almond & Sea Salt. You can use any nut or dried fruit combo you like, these just happen to be my faves.

This just may be the toffee of your (my) dreams and while I may be indulging in a tiny bit of hyperbole, once you try it, you’ll know that I might be dramatic, but I am not a liar. In the past, I proclaimed this Salted Caramel Sauce the best thing ever and I stand by that. It’s just that there’s room on the pedestal for that sauce’s cousin from across the pond, real English toffee.  

Ultimate English Toffee

FACT: This toffee is so good, it caused this face from Loki, this one from Arya, and best of all, this one from Matt. Okay, nerd business done.

While other toffee types are available, this toffee is hard and brittle, and thin enough that you won’t need a tiny hammer to break it up.

I’ve made a lot of toffee recipes over the years and this one is by far the tastiest and the easiest. It not only has a really nice balance of sweet and salty but the addition of a very small amount of corn syrup pretty much eliminates the danger of the sugar crystallizing, which happened to me once and was a real bummer. This is caused when the sugar crystals start a chain reaction of crystallization (the process of sugar particles clinging together) which makes the mixture grainy. Once it happens there’s not much you can do about it but there are a few things that will help prevent it from starting.

White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta Dip

White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta Dip

White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta DipIt’s party season which, yay!!! So much fun. But also, boo!!! So much work. That’s why it’s great to have a few easy, fast and inexpensive recipes to fall back on when the hungry hordes arrive (auto-correct keeps changing hordes to whores. So if your house is full of hungry holiday whores, all the power to you!). Ahem, *adjusts glasses*.

Dips! Dips are great. Everyone loves dips. They can sometimes be a little boring though, right? I love a good onion or spinach dip, but sometimes I want to shake it up a little bit. This White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta Dip is basically like a Hummus but, to me, a whole lot tastier. It’s creamy from the yogurt, tart from the lemon and feta and plain old delicious from the roasted garlic. Awww yeah.

Best part? I bet most of the ingredients are in your pantry and fridge right now. Maybe not the feta cheese, but everything else is probably there. I’m right, aren’t I? Go look!

White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta Dip

Real, Homemade Egg Nog

Real, Homemade Egg Nog

Real, Homemade Egg NogIf you’ve never had real, homemade egg nog, I can understand why you might be wrinkling your nose and shaking your head right now. Most mass-produced versions are pretty horrible. In fact, the only store-bought version that doesn’t make me gag is from Ronnybrook Farm, which while delicious, also costs a friggin’ fortune. You’d need to take out a bank loan if you wanted enough for a party.

Surprisingly, real egg nog is actually very easy to make and it’s a shame that so few people do it. Fortunately for me, my mom makes a killer egg nog so I know how good it can be. This version is unapologetically rich and boozy in the most wonderful way. In fact, Matt and I had a little tree-trimming party the other night and just about everyone who claimed not to like egg nog ended up slurping up several cups full. Needless to say, a lot of fun was had.

For those of you who are worried about consuming raw eggs, history and science have proven that with enough booze, bacteria will not be an issue. Science says so! Of course, use good eggs. If you want an alcohol-free version, you could probably cook the custard part (the eggs and sugar) in a water bath, but honestly, I think it would be overly rich without the alcohol.

EggsYour eyes are not deceiving you. Our chickens laid a (beige) rainbow of eggs. Now that’s talent. Also, as a special holiday treat, click the link to see a real-life version of the Grinch’s dog.

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