Winter Sangria with citrus & pomegranate

This year we have two parties leading up to New Year’s, then a blissful clear calendar on the 31st. I’m so looking forward to a non-hyped quiet night in, especially after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. The visiting -and feasting- has been wonderful, and I’ve been thrilled to host out-of-town family for a week, but Danny and I are very ready to put our feet up and exhale in a quiet house.

Last year we organized to have baby sitter, then bundled up (why is NYE always freezing?) and had a great evening out with friends, but I’m hesitant to leave Clara this year – or maybe I’m just using her as an excuse to stay in! Either way, we’re staying cozy this New Year’s Eve.

Danny’s stashed a bottle of champagne for midnight and I’m planning fondue for two and mini tourtière hand pies. In the meantime, though, we’ll be sipping on a dark and fruity winter sangria and nibbling maple spiced nuts as the hours count down.

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A Simple Holiday Cocktail Hour (Recipe: Cookies and Cream Cocktail)

Written by Kristen.

This time of year it is so easy to get caught up in the elaborate and forget all about the simple. We host a much anticipated holiday party each year with friends but to be honest with you, although I love our holiday party, I have really been struggling with how I was going to fit it in with our already crammed packed schedule.

Our party is typically big, with a full dinner, dessert, cocktails, presents and games… but it was more than I felt like I could handle with life being so crazy this year. So instead of completely cancelling the party, I had to simplify.

A simpler option to a full holiday party is to host a simple holiday cocktail hour. This way we can still see our friends, celebrate the season together, yet I won’t be so stressed about losing an entire day devoted to planning and preparing for a big party.

Our friends are also busy, so they have welcomed the opportunity to socialize yet not eat up an entire evening. [Read more…]

Eat Well, Spend Less: Homemade Substitutes for Holiday Favorites

You may have noticed the barrage of holiday food items in supermarkets. The towers of garishly colored fruitcake, rows and rows of pale frozen shrimp rings, and battalions of eggnog cartons.

As most of these once-a-year items tend to be highly processed and contain unrecognizable ingredients, they never make it into my shopping cart. That is not to say I don’t enjoy eggnog, butter tarts or other Christmas-time specialties, I just try to make them myself, from scratch, when I can, because they taste that much better and I know what they contain.

Take fruitcake, for example. My mother’s recipe (which was also her wedding cake) contains ingredients like fresh lemon zest, dried figs, currants and apricots, apple cider and rum, and freshly ground spices. It’s a confection that makes you weak in the knees and momentarily lose your train of thought.

My mother’s Christmas fruit cake simply cannot be compared with a commercial product, which – in a perfect example of mystery ingredients – contains those candied ‘fruits’, fruits that are actually pieces of dyed rutabaga. Yep, turnip.

We know homemade is better, so why spend a penny of your Christmas budget on less than stellar products when, with a little planning, you can make many, if not all of your favorite holiday foods?

Today I’ve rounded up some recipes for traditional and popular holiday foods. As we all come from different backgrounds, cultures and family traditions, my favorites may vary from yours. Feel free to share your holiday eats, recipe notes, or personal must-haves in the comments!

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Hot Spiced Apple Cider

Written by Danny.

I am convinced that Spiced Apple Cider sold our house.  Sure we had a good agent, staged it pretty well, kept it tidy with 2 VERY young kids for almost 2 consecutive months – but the aromas of the cider simmering on the stove on one particular visit made it feel like somewhere you wanted to stay.  And they bought the house.

As you read about in Monday’s post, Aimee had some friends over to our house last Friday for a good cause, and I was doing my utmost to practice what I preach and be of help .  I both wanted to and needed to make something, so that I could more easily convince Aimee to get off her feet and rest.  And so our annual holiday favorite beverage, Spiced Apple Cider was made.

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Lemon Balm-Infused Lemonade for a Virtual Baby Shower

We’re still grasping at summer even though there is a decided ‘nip’ in the air. I found myself day dreaming about turkey dinner recently and had to shake myself out of the reverie by reminding myself that, hey! it’s still August. At least it won’t be a shock when the leaves start turning color, as I think I’m already in fall mode.

Still, I haven’t pulled out the crock-pot yet. We continue to enjoy chilled soups for lunch and dinners that feature or favorite seasonal vegetable, corn.

We got a late start on gardening this summer, but my herbs still pulled through and are thriving. Lemon Balm, a fast-growing herb from the mint family that has a lovely lemon scent, has wasted no time pushing the boundaries of the raised bed.

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