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Winter Holidays

When things are tough, I usually curl up and lose myself in a book. I burrow under a blanket with tea, hot chocolate, or wine by my side. I let the characters take my problems away. The Princess Bride is one of my favorite books to curl up with. I can read it over and over again. As the weather turns chillier and the blanket comes out (along with this book!), I heat up a glass of hot chocolate and get ready to spend a long afternoon on the couch. The hot chocolate recipe is a new favorite recipe of mine. I’ve given it as a gift, but not going to lie, I kept lots for myself.

One of my favorite food blogs is Annie’s Eats. It’s the first blog I check in the morning; it’s the first blog I check for recipe ideas. Annie is a full-time doctor, wife and mother. Every time I read her blog, I’m amazed at how much she has accomplished.

Last week, on Thanksgiving day, Annie’s father passed away unexpectedly. As I was blessed with a wonderful day with my parents, in-laws, and siblings, Annie was grieving. Tears come to my eyes as I try to imagine what she must be going through. Annie, I’ve never met you, and you probably don’t follow my blog. But this post is dedicated to you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

The Princess Bride

By William Goldman

The Princess Bride is a classic. You know the movie? Well, the book is even better.

A father reads aloud to his his sick 10-year old son a story by S. Morgenstern. The story that has everything in it: “Fencing. Fighting. Torture, Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.” (p 9-10) Years later, Goldman gives the book to his own son for his tenth birthday and goes on to discover that S. Morgenstern’s story is not what he thought it was. Goldman discovers that his father only read him the “good parts.” This book is Goldman’s 1973 adaption of S. Morgenstern’s tale, leaving out the boring family genealogies and pages upon pages of descriptions where nothing happens.

Buttercup was a milkmaid and the prettiest girl alive. She falls in love with her “farm boy” Westley, who leaves to make his fortune in America. Not long after he sets sail, Buttercup receives a letter saying that his ship was taken by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves prisoners alive. That was the last Buttercup heard of her one true love.

Buttercup’s beauty wins her a an engagement to Prince Humperdinck of Florin. Just before their wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped. Twice. The next two hundred pages is packed with fighting, plotting, deceiving, and revenge as Westley struggles to rejoin his one true love.

If this story rings a bell, it’s because the movie was pretty true to the plot as well as the dialog. However, like all movies, it’s impossible to fit everything into two hours. Read the book. You’ll learn the stories behind Fezzik and Inigo – how they ended up with Vizzini the Sicilian, what Fezzik’s childhood was like, and how Inigo’s father died at the hands of the 6-figured man. These are the pieces that make me like the characters even more.

Recommendation: Read it. Please.

Grade: A+

And to go with The Princess Bride…. make some of this hot chocolate mix. Give some as gifts or hoard it all. But if you give it as a gift, you should at least hoard a little bit. You’d be sad if you didn’t. And then make it every night with a generous dollop of whipped cream. It’s rich, it’s decadent. It’s grown-up hot chocolate. It’s amazing.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

This recipe was adapted from Gourmet (2005) via Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. vanilla sugar
  • 3/4 lb. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4.5 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. Dutch process cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa since I’m unable to find Dutch process cocoa powder)

Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until chocolate is finely ground (mixture should be completely combined).

Makes 38 servings (2 Tbs. mix or 1 c. hot chocolate).

Serve: Mix 2 Tbs. mix with 1 c. warm/hot milk or water, stirring until all chocolate is melted.

Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

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Christmas time is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year. The tree goes up as early as the hubby will let me. In fact, because of a crazy couple weeks, we put up the tree just before Thanksgiving this year. I think I drove the hubby crazy because we returned from Thanksgiving with Christmas presents from my parents – I immediately arranged them under the tree and then asked, every day, if we could open presents. The pile has been growing as I’ve finished Christmas shopping – wrapping the presents and adding them to the pile (I even had a wedding gift and birthday present under the tree!)

I also love to celebrate with our friends and family at our annual holiday party. Its our one huge party of the year where everyone is invited. I’m probably pretty annoying, asking friends whether it’s on their calendar well before the party. I start planning the menu in October and start cooking and baking in November…. but its well worth it. The party is always a ton of fun!

So, without further ado, here’s this year’s menu.

I’ll be posting links to more of the recipes this week, but for those of you still searching for ideas for your own holiday parties, I wanted to get this out sooner. If you’d like a recipe before it gets posted, please just let me know and I’d be happy to send it to you.

2010 Holiday Party

Savory

  • Create Your Own Ham Slider: roast ham, swiss cheese, mustard, and dinner rolls
  • Duo of Pesti: Artichoke-Parmesan Pesto & Sun Dried Tomato Pesto served with freshly baked french bread
  • Honey-Apple-Brie Bites (thanks to K for bringing these tasty bites and for sharing the recipe!)
  • Cheddar and Bacon Mini-Quiche

Sweet

Nibbles around the House

Drinks

  • Assorted white and red wine
  • Sam Adams Winter Lager
  • Assorted Soft Drinks
  • Assorted Liquors

Note: This menu served approximately 50 people.

If you’re looking for more ideas, check out the 2009 Holiday Party Menu.

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Christmas this year was pretty quiet, just the six of us home for the holidays. Mom & I did our share of holiday baking and brought some goodies to the neighbors, but tried to keep things simple this year. And since there’s always so much food and snacking, most of our Christmas Eve and Christmas choices were great leftovers (mid-afternoon snack/appetizers instead of a meal) or freezable.

This year’s menu was a mix of old favorites (such as the seven-layer cookies, the stuffed shrimp, and the spinach lasagna) and new adventures (like the red velvet snowball cake that we made twice and ultimately deemed a failure). In the end, we had a very happy, well-fed family.

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Christmas Week Goodies:

Chrust

Macaroons

Oreo Truffles

Seven-Layer Cookies

Almond Kringle

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A meatless Christmas Eve:

Lunch: Potato Pancakes with sour cream & apple sauce

Snacks: Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms

Dinner: Spinach Lasagna

Eggplant Parmesan

Crab-Stuffed Shrimp

Dessert: Red Velvet Snowball Cake

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Christmas Day:

Bunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Rosemary & Fennel Crusted Beef Tenderloin served with Horseradish Sauce and Creamy Mustard Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Brussel Sprouts & Shallots

Green Beans with Vinaigrette & Asiago

Dessert: Red Velvet Snowball Cake

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2009 Holiday Party Menu

Every year we host a large holiday party,for about 50 people who will be wandering throughout the house. Most of the food is upstairs, but I’ll also have some snacks in the pool room and extended basement.

Thanks to all our friends who brought something to share!

Drinks:

  • Killian’s & Blue Moon in the keg
  • Lots and lots of Pinot Grigio  🙂
  • Hot apple cider, with Captain Morgan rum nearby
  • Assorted hard liquors, sodas & mixers

Our crowd isn’t big red wine drinkers, so we usually let tell them to bring their own.

Savory:

And Sweet:

Food Downstairs & in the Pool Room:

  • Spiced Nuts
  • Cheese & Cracker Platter
  • Small Cookie Platter

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I saw a recipe for a Cardamon-Clove White Cocoa in a new cookbook I was given, Williams Sonoma’s Cooking for Friends (p. 235).  I have only had cardamom once, in a cranberry pear tart, and really enjoyed the flavoring and wanted to try it out again.

This recipe was inspired by that in the WS cookbook, but has been simplified so that it could be a quick afternoon snack on a cold day. It’s got a great, light flavor of the cardamon and white chocolate. Enjoy!

Cardamom White Hot Cocoa

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • a heaping 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom, plus some for sprinkling

In a small saucepan, heat milk and cardamon until hot and almost simmering. Remove from heat. Add white chocolate  and whisk until chocolate has melted.

Pour into a mug.  Serve hot with a sprinkle of cardamon on top.

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