Wrapping presents has to be one of my favorite things to do during the holidays. For me, it’s not about the paper but rather, the present toppers! You should see my storage box, it’s filled to the brim with Christmas themed toppers like tiny trinkets, little feathered birds, spun cotton fruits . . . you name it, I’ve got it. But this year, I’m trying something different. Gingerbread gift tags! I’m using Karen’s tried and true recipe – the same one she’s used to make her adorable mini gingerbread houses and sweet gingerbread men garlands in years past. It’s a dough that’s sturdy, making the gingerbread durable. Admittedly, decorating the tags with icing is the most challenging part, especially if you’re an amateur like me. My tip is to keep it simple. Use a single icing tip throughout and just play around with dots and lines!
It’s amazing how much you can travel through food. Exploring different cuisines and ingredients is the best part of cooking in my opinion. My kitchen is always stocked with tons of spices and cooking tools from around the world. When I travel, I make it a point to seek out things I can add to my kitchen too. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a foodie or a travel lover, these are great for anyone looking for adventure in their kitchen!
My fridge is full different kinds of hot sauces from all over the world and one of my favorites is harissa, a North African chili paste made of all kinds of chili peppers with spices and herbs like coriander, caraway and garlic. Today, I’ve made some super spicy harissa fried chicken wings– the best part of the chicken in my opinion (i.e., best crispy skin to meat ratio) which gets doused in some harissa butter hot sauce. Once the wings are out of the fryer, I sprinkle a little smoked sea salt and crushed coriander over the wings and serve it with fresh cilantro and mint. Before you eat the wings, drizzle spoonfuls of the harissa sauce over the wings. It’s like southern fried chicken meets buffalo wings in North Africa– the combination awesome. Once your mouth is on fire and you’re beginning to sweat, you’re gonna want to reach for something to soothe the flames, so I’ve made a cardamom honey milk slushie to pair with the wings. Cold milk is really the best cure for spicy food (some people think beer is, but I think carbonation makes things worse!) and this is a super ice cold milk slushie with just a touch of sweetness from the honey and fragrant cardamom (I’m having a bit of an obsession with cardamom lately). Spicy harissa chicken wings and sweet ice cold milk– I can’t think of a better combination!
One of my finest pleasures in life right now is watching Fiona bake with her mama. She’s a real natural, I tell ya. Since day one she’s being roaming the flour-laden floors of our kitchen, scouring the dark reaches of bottom drawers and cupboards for new tools. What started out as simply banging pots and pans, quickly evolved into mixing and measuring liquids by the fraction of a teaspoon. A few weeks ago, she was up on her stool rolling out dough, when the rolling pin slipped from the counter and fell to the floor. “Sh*t!” she exclaimed. Both Audrey and I immediately turned to each other in shock, and then proceed to erupt into laughter. Like mother like daughter!
Today’s baking adventure, a similarly rowdy family production, is extra special. You see, our friends Natalie & Holly from The Modern Proper are hosting a virtual cookie swap! And there’s nothing Fiona likes baking more than cookies (or turkeys, as Fiona calls them). Being the holidays and all, I thought I’d reach back to my roots and share a recipe for ricciarelli, traditional Italian almond cookies, from Siena. This cookie really couldn’t get much simpler. It’s essentially a mix of almond meal, almond paste, and a little egg white to bind (& naturally gluten-free). As expected, Fiona thoroughly enjoyed rolling out the dough, and of course,
dusting dousing the finished products with powdered sugar. These little joyous bites of almond are perfect for casual holiday snacking. And remember, for more cookie inspiration, be sure to check out The Modern Proper for a full list of all the other delicious cookie swap creations!!
- Use a food processor to finely grind the almonds.
- Add the almond paste to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed until broken up (~30 seconds).
- Add the ground almonds and mix until smooth.
- Add the egg white and turn the speed up to medium. Mix for 2 minutes. At this point the dough should come together and be pretty stiff. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just incorporated.
- Divide the dough into for equal portions and roll each into a ball. Lightly flour your work surface (use almond flour if keeping gluten-free). Using your finger tips, lightly roll out each ball into a log, about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator and slice into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Arrange on the baking sheets, keeping at least an inch between each cookie. Place the cookies in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden, rotating the pans halfway through. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack to cool. Dust with powdered sugar, and serve! Cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week. Any extra dough can be frozen for up to a month.
(images by HonestlyYUM)
I’ve been on a super cereal old fashioned kick these past few months. Perhaps it’s the season, but all I want to do after the sun goes down is cozy up on the couch with a thick blanket and an old fashioned. I’ve even converted Audrey, who isn’t really a whiskey drinker. I love the simplicity of the old fashioned, but also enjoy how the character changes over the course of the drink. What starts out big and bold slowly mellows, as that large cube melts into one last silky sweet sip.
This particular old fashioned variant is no exception. At first I was skeptical when I came across Corbin Cash Sweet Potato Liqueur. But this isn’t just another cloyingly sweet, fake tasting liqueur. Don’t get me wrong, it is sweet. But it also has a bit of a dry whiskey vibe to it. The base spirit is made from 100% sweet potatoes, which is then aged in oak barrels and mixed with brown sugar and spices. The liqueur definitely has a winter spice profile, so I immediately thought of sweet potato pie! And you know there’s only one place I go for sweet potato pie . . . Joy’s dad’s sweet potato pie. Therefore, in an attempt to combine two delicious creations, I give you the sweet potato pie old fashioned.
For the cocktail
For the sweet potato pie spice syrup
- Crack the cinnamon stick and add it into a small saucepan, along with the coriander seeds, and toast over medium-low heat until the spices become aromatic (~2 minutes).
- Add water, brown sugar, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Adjust the heat to medium, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer, cover, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the cocktail
- Add sweet potato pie spice syrup, bitters, sweet potato liqueur, and rye whiskey into a mixing glass. Fill mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into an old fashioned glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange, and serve!
(images by HonestlyYUM)
We did very little baking growing up. My parents came to this country in the 70s and it seems our kitchen was one of the last places to assimilate. Our pantry was always filled with various Chinese herbs and ingredients and we never really used the oven. On rare occasions, we would bake a cake with the only two things you really need to bake a cake with: cake mix and a bundt pan. For as long as I can remember, my mom had this red bundt pan and growing up we baked cake after cake after cake with nothing else but that old beat-up bundt pan. It was the only cake pan we had! It served us well and to this day that red bundt pan brings back happy memories for my sister and me of baking together in the kitchen. I’m not sure what happened with that bundt pan, but at some point it must’ve gotten the ol’ heave-ho. So this holiday season, I’m teaming up with McCormick to rediscover our family’s lost bundt cake tradition by making this gorgeous gingerbread bundt cake. This bundt cake recipe is filled with tons of holiday spices like ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground cloves. This super moist cake is then covered with the best part of this recipe– a coffee cardamom glaze that is, literally and figuratively, the icing on the cake! Baking gingerbread from scratch with all the classic holiday spices, like ginger, cinnamon and cloves, is certainly an upgrade to our old childhood bundt cake!
This post was in partnership with McCormick. To explore more Holiday recipes using McCormick spices and extracts, click here!