Archive: Holiday Treats

For the Fourth, Color-Coordinated Sweets

I’m hardly a matchy-match kind of cook or party hostess; in fact, I prefer a motley assortment of colors and styles on my table than a uniform set of dishes and cutlery (after all, I did grow up with a pink piano in the dining room). (Kim O'Donnel) That said, when it comes to Fourth of July, I’m all about a red, white and blue menu. Not only is it a kick in the pants to put together a color-coordinated Fourth feast, there’s a ton of seasonal options in all the right shades. Today, we’ll start planning backwards, with dessert. Is there anyone else who thinks there’s something wrong about eating chocolate on the Fourth of July? I dug up a bunch of red, white and blue sweet endings from the recipe vault that kick chocolate to the curb -- at least until the fifth. Taste the possibilities: In the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 1, 2009; 12:15 PM ET | Comments (1)

Tales From a Cookie-Baking Extravaganza

Peanut Butter Blossoms. (Nancy Kerr) It started out seven years ago as a simple day of baking. My college roommate Brigid, my sister Cathy and I decided to get together to crank out a bunch of unique Christmas cookies to present as gifts to friends and business associates. We’d congregate at B’s farm-style house with its large, open kitchen and dreamy commercial-quality Wolf stove -- capable of baking six-plus dozen cookies at one time -- and make dough after dough. At the end of the day we’d divvy up bags of cookies and split costs. At home, treats were boxed up in white baker’s boxes with raffia and personalized labels. Sweet success. As years went by, word got out about our box o’ confections. Starting Dec. 1, clients and friends started asking, “So, when are the cookie boxes coming?” Expectation levels and cookie quantities increased. Ingredients were no longer...

 

By Nancy Kerr | December 10, 2008; 03:00 AM ET | Comments (15)

Edible Gifts

This week and next, I'm on vacation, but I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Shannon Henry, a former Post technology writer, who has transferred her talents into the kitchen. This year, in these times, what I want to give and get most for the holiday is, simply, food. Edible gifts in pretty packages seem just right -- cost-saving, meaningful and most of all, comforting. (Shannon Henry) My friends this holiday will find jars of an Herbes de Provence blend -- several dried spices mixed together to subtly spice chicken, soup and stews -- in their stockings and mailboxes. Some other favorites I’ve given and received include: sugared cranberries, hot chocolate mix, herb-infused oils and vinegars, granola, spiced nuts, Russian tea, and of course, cookies. As you’re thinking about making homemade gifts this year, instead...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 9, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Food-Loving Gifts

With Thanksgiving leftovers still lingering in the fridge, the holiday gifting season is officially underway. And if you think I’m pulling your turkey leg, have a sip of this wake-up juice: Hanukah is less than three weeks away and Christmas is three weeks from Thursday. Hey, how did it get to be December, anyway? Setting up for a round of Foodie Fight. (Kim O'Donnel) With the economy in the garbage pail, it’s a tough year to feel merry and jolly and to dole out the dough for high-ticket items as in years past. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share gift ideas as they hit my desk, particularly if they’re fun to eat or play with (and even better if they’re easy on the wallet). If you come across something tasty, groovy and thrifty that would jingle-bell rock someone’s world this holiday season, please share your finds in the comments...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 2, 2008; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (7)

From the Recipe Crypt: Halloween-y Treats

October 31 is just a week away. Are you practicing your apple-bobbing maneuvers? (Kim O'Donnel) This year, Halloween falls on a Friday, which means tricksters can frolic all weekend long. The Friday night monster mash can easily segue into a Saturday morning-after pumpkin pancake brunch or an afternoon candy-making workshop before the next round of evening festivities (and a costume change, of course). Roll up those costume sleeves and whip up a pot of homemade caramel for dipping apples. While you oversee the super-hot cooked sugar, the under-12 set can spear the apples with sticks (use up those unused take-out chopsticks) and assist with the dipping. Aprons (and a candy thermometer) are a must! For more of a kitchen challenge (and something more arts-and-craftsy), consider a batch of homemade candy corns. I had a ball making these last year, but my only regret was not having a partner. A team...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 24, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Relishing the Idea of Homemade Chowchow

With the Fourth on the horizon, let us turn our attention to chowchow. If you're from the south or have canoodled with the Pennsylvania Dutch, you might know about chowchow, a type of sweet-n-sour relish made primarily from cabbage. But before we move on, let's define relish. Cabbage gets a fun makeover as chowchow. (Kim O'Donnel) Relish is a highly seasoned condiment made from pickled vegetables -- and sometimes fruit -- except when it's called a chutney. Just so everyone is on the same page, "to pickle" means to preserve food in a vinegar-based brine. In this country, 'pickle relish' means pickled cucumbers but if you travel to the West Indies, India or South Africa, you might hear the word achar instead. The word "chowchow" seems to have interesting, diverse origins as well. For starters, it sounds like chou, the French word for cabbage, and some historians claim that it...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 3, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Chat Leftovers: Fourth of July Vittles

We're going to the beach Friday! I'm excited, and wanted to make a picnic for lunch. What do you suggest would be a good, but cheap main course. I was thinking of baking chicken wings with a sweet soy glaze of some sort. Any other ideas? You'd get more bird for your buck if you roasted an entire chicken, quarter it and pack it in foil for the cooler. You'll have more variety of nibbles and a cut-up bird should prove to be less messy than a mountain of glazed wings. Here are the details for my naked chicken, a whole skinless bird infused with a curry-style rub. Bring along a baguette and you can make sandwiches. Getting into the Fourth spirit, circa 1970. (Family photo) Speaking of sandwiches, I've got cold meatloaf on the brain. Make the meatloaf the night before, but refrain from slicing it until the next...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 2, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (23)

Chat Leftovers: Easter Feasting

This week's What's Cooking prompted several questions about serving suggestions for Easter supper, which takes place this Sunday, March 23. Whether or not you observe Easter, the ideas below should get you in the spring swing of things. As always, your contributions are vital to the mix. And check out today's Food section for Easter mushroom lasagna and holiday hams. Easter egg radishes, Mother Nature's eye candy. (Kim O'Donnel) Easter dinner: I only do three big meals a year, and I like to make it season-specific (unlike MIL, who makes pumpkin pie for the 4th of July) and I like to try something new. But everything on my menu is traditional (except cabrito for the main dish). Any ideas, especially for sides that would be pseudo-traditional (scalloped potatoes) but with a twist to go along with the cabrito? First off, for those who don't know, cabrito is roasted kid (aka...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 19, 2008; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

Some Pepper With My Cookie, Please

I was looking for a new twist on a holiday cookie, and I found it in the most unlikely of places -- a cookbook focusing on the Indian Ocean spice route. "Where Flavor Was Born" is indeed a spicy and lively collection of nearly 100 recipes from the countries and island nations on four continents that surround the world's third largest ocean. (If anyone can find a resource that lists all countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, I'd be grateful.) Sugar and spice makes everything nice in these cookies. (Kim O'Donnel) The genius idea of making the spice connection among the cookery of four continents belongs to Norwegian food writer and TV cooking personality Andreas Viestad, who traveled to eleven countries for research, including his beloved Zanzibar, an East African island nation I've been hankering to visit for several years. Rather than by country, continent or type of dish, the book...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 28, 2007; 09:49 AM ET | Comments (27)

Gearing Up for Fruitcake Season

Earlier this week, a What's Cooking reader expressed an interest in making fruitcake, the centuries-old dessert that Americans love to ridicule and Brits love to celebrate. Also known as plum cake, Christmas cake, black cake and wedding cake, fruitcake is a rich, dense cake studded with dried and candied fruit and usually marinated in booze for several weeks, sometimes months. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the fruit cake can be traced to the Middle Ages, when dried fruit began to arrive in Britain from Portugal and the E. Mediterranean. Sugar was cheap and plentiful, a reason to dip the dried fruit to further preserve and "candy" it. It's not clear exactly when alcohol entered the fruitcake equation, but recipe references to Madeira, rum and brandy all point in the direction of the 17th century, when British colonists boarded ships for the West Indies. The former British colony of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 12, 2007; 12:14 PM ET | Comments (18)

A Hot Pot of 'Sippy-Poo'

When she drank alcohol, my Aunt Ginny was fond of her afternoon "sippy-poo." Usually, this meant a Pink Squirrel, a sickly sweet concoction of white creme de cacao mixed with creme de noyaux, an almond-flavored red liqueur that gives the drink its signature Pepto-pink hue. Spiced hot chocolate: Exactly what Santa ordered. (Kim O'Donnel) In spite of my aunt's affinity for psychedelic-colored beverages, I always like her turn of phrases, and as an adult, adopted her "sippy-poo" expression as my own. And at this time of year, when drinking and eating turn into sport, a light-hearted Aunt Ginny-ism is particularly fitting. More than any other time of year, December holidays bring out the "sippy-poo" in all of us -- whether or not we drink alcohol. For the most part, I drink wine, but over the next few weeks, I'll cave to a glass of eggnog or something spritzy and sparkly....

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 22, 2006; 08:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

Do the Yule Log Roll

A friend who's more like a younger sister celebrated her 30th birthday over the weekend, so a group of older folks decided to help her around the bend into a new decade. A bunch of calls were made, as were potluck assignments, and I set out to make a birthday dessert fit for a December babe in the woods. Meringue yule log with chocolate mascarpone. The first thing that came to mind was a traditional buche de Noel, aka a yule log. Essentially, a yule log is a roulade, a fancy word for a cake layer that gets rolled up and filled with something yummy. Traditionally, the "log" is made from a genoise (sponge) cake, and the filling is made from buttercream or a flavored whipped cream. The idea is to make the cake look like a wood in the middle of an enchanted forest on a wintry day. As...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 18, 2006; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (11)

Holiday A-Z, Part 2

Yesterday, I sang to you my ABCs, holiday style. We got through the first half of the alphabet; today, I tackle the rest and some of the peskier letters. (Go on; you try and come up with a food association that begins with an "X."). Now, let's recite... N Nuts that are sugar and spice and everything nice, navels of the orange variety, nutmeg from Grenada O Oysters overnighted from Washington's Olympic peninsula, olive oil P Penzey's spice gift boxes, pomegranate, pate Q Quince, and now I'm stuck. (All of a sudden, this feels like a Scrabble game.) R Rosemary plant, rugelach, recipe organizing binders S Salt of a coarse variety, Silpat baking mat, Sufganiyot T Tangerines, tea service and sandwiches in the afternoon, tawny port U Upside down cake, Ugli fruit V Vegetarian cooking class with Fairfax, Va.- based instructor Mimi Clark, a bottle of really good vanilla extract...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 13, 2006; 09:47 AM ET | Comments (10)

Chocolate Bark With Bite

I can't predict what you want or need to be the best gift-giver, mostest-hostess or big honking holiday Pollyanna. But I can predict that if you make chocolate bark, everyone will love you, praise your culinary genius and spread the kudos all the way to the North Pole. Bark on bark. (Kim O'Donnel) Here's why making chocolate bark will make you fabulous and the mistle in everyone's toe: * It looks ultra glam but requires very few elementary steps, like chopping stuff and melting chocolate, * It looks like a difficult and complicated kitchen project, but most of the work is at the store, sourcing the ingredients and * The bark begs questions such as "Oooh, what's that little zip on my tongue?" or "What fruit is in there?" When you offer up your secret ingredients, you can also mention the antioxidant boost not only from the dark chocolate but...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 8, 2006; 11:18 AM ET | Comments (13)

Santa Wants a Low-Fat Cookie

It's December 1, people. I guess that means we can start yanking out the garland and hanging the mistletoe. With the first holiday-season weekend about to kick off, many of you, I'm guessing, are making those lists. I'm notoriously slow to acquiring a holiday spirit, but my goal each year is to c'mon and get happy a little earlier in the season. Holiday cookies with lower-fat bonus points.(Kim O'Donnel) One activity that does a good job of removing my cynical mask is cookie baking. It's kind of hard to be a grouch when you're up to your elbows in sugary dough that transforms into little love nuggets that make the whole house smell like a fairy tale. I can't resist. And who doesn't love receiving a gift box of homemade cookies? Really, there should be a cookie holiday at some other time of the year, when we really need it,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 1, 2006; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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