Baking is a great indoor activity. It’s fun to do alone or with friends and family. Christmas cookies should not only look good but they should also taste great. This is a simple recipe that comes together in a matter of minutes. I have been using this recipe since my children were small and each year we set aside an afternoon to bake and decorate cookies. I used to love when they actually believed that they were making cookies for Santa which is why we started calling them Santa Cookies.
This Sugar Cookie recipe is easy and absolutely delicious. It is much easier to roll the dough when it is slightly chilled so you should divide the dough into four pieces, roll them each into a ball and chill. Take them out of the refrigerator when you are ready to roll and cut out the shapes. After cutting the shapes re-roll the scraps and put back in refrigerator for a few minutes so you can use all the dough. This recipe should make about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size of the cookie cutters. We like making a variety of sizes, some bite sized and some that are 2 or 3 inches. It’s really up to you.
Carefully use a spatula to lift the cookie off the surface and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Do not overtake the cookies, they should only take 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from oven when the edges start to turn a very light brown. Let cool completely before frosting. I recommend making your own frosting and placing it into squeeze bottles. Squeeze bottles makes frosting the cookies much easier and the frosting will not dry out as quickly. The frosting needs to have a little corn syrup in it in order to dry with a nice sheen on top. This makes the cookies absolutely beautiful. Use food coloring to color the frosting and place each in a separate bottle.
The cookies can be stored for 5 days in an airtight container. They are so festive and fun to make and look beautiful served after dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas. The cookies also make a great homemade gift. Buy cookie boxes or tins and wrap a beautiful red ribbon around it to give as a holiday gift to friends and family. Homemade gifts are so thoughtful to give, especially edible ones. They are gifts that took your time to make, which is the greatest gift of all. Please share your cookie pictures with me on instagram by tagging @itsjennsview . I would love to see how they come out!!!
There is nothing better than a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. I wanted to make hot chocolate a bit more interesting. The basic hot cocoa recipe will remain the same but we can definitely jazz it up a bit. I find that rimming a glass mug with peppermint, crumbled cookies or graham crackers is always a great way to fancy up hot chocolate. This can also be done ahead of time so all you have to do is make the hot chocolate. Rim the mug with graham cracker crumbs, pour in hot chocolate, add marshmallows and use a torch to ignite the marshmallows and you have my version of S’mores Hot Chocolate. It is also fun to put out a hot chocolate bar for friends and family. to help themselves. Make the hot chocolate and place in a thermos to keep warm, rim several mugs with various toppings like peppermint, oreo crumbs, graham cracker crumbs, mini M&M’s, etc… Put out cinnamon sticks, peppermint sticks, marshmallows, whipped cream. I also put out Baileys, Kahlua, Brandy and Chambord for the adults to mix in for a grown up hot chocolate. Let your imagination go and have fun with it!
I have mentioned before that I have an annual Truffle lunch tradition with my friend Elysa. Each year in November or early December we select a restaurant to have decadent White Truffles. White Truffles are typically served over risotto or simple buttered pasta. You do not want to mask the flavors of the Truffles. You can also shave truffles over fish or eggs but white truffles are so exquisite and such a delicacy that I think they should take the starring role in the dish. Elysa and I both love the truffles shaved over risotto.
White truffles are from Northern Italy. They are pale golden in color and look like a potato. White truffles have a distinctive, pungent flavor that is unlike any other flavor. Many companies sell white truffle oil but oftentimes the oil is not made with truffles and the flavor is created with chemicals. This is why you need to eat fresh white truffles when they are in season to really experience the true flavor. Truffles grow underground near the roots of hardwood trees. White truffle season runs from late September until December. The truffles grow wild and professionally trained truffle hunting dogs sniff out their location. The dogs are able to sniff out the distinct scent of the truffle. The truffles are then dug out and cleaned. Truffles were once hunted by trained pigs but the pigs often liked to eat them so now dogs are mostly used. Truffles are delicate and susceptible to the weather and can only grow in certain conditions.
Truffles are shipped twice a week from Italy to the United States. They have a very short shelf life. Ideally the truffle should be eaten within three days. It is best to store them in rice in a cool dark place. After about three days the truffle will start to lose flavor so you really want to consume it as fresh as possible. At my restaurant we ordered our white truffles through Urbani Truffles located in New York City. Urbani sources the freshest, highest quality of white truffle. You can order online to be shipped to you. If preparing them at home you will need to buy a truffle peeler so that you can slice the truffle very thin. Serve several slices over simple buttered fettuccini or risotto. Enjoy.
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The night before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to set the table. You will have much too much to do on Thanksgiving to worry about setting the table. Doing it the night before will allow you to make sure it looks great. The most important thing to remember when setting a table is that it is important to have different levels of height, particularly with candlelight. I like to use taper candles or pillar candles and also use lower votives so that the light reflects off of the centerpiece at different angles.
If you are setting a square or round table I like to use one arrangement in the middle and surround the arrangement with candles and other decorative items. Rectangle tables should have two or three arrangements down the middle so it is more linear. The centerpieces can vary in height on a rectangular table if you are using three or more. The goal is for the setting to be interesting and tell a story. Why are we at the dinner? What is the occasion? In my restaurant I believe that people eat with their eyes. It is very important to set the mood for the meal that is about to be served. First pick your color scheme and then decide what you would like to incorporate. Flowers are always nice but also try and use some things that are different like fresh fruit, nuts or herbs. You can also add a little sparkle by using crystal or glass beads. Have fun with it but make sure you remember to save room for the food.
This year I decided to keep my Thanksgiving table very natural. I wanted to bring nature inside. Since we will be hosting a much smaller dinner than in typical years I wanted a more intimate setting. Something that evoked the beauty of close family. Since I live in NYC I wasn’t able to go outside and find branches to use but I was lucky enough to have some sent to me by Wholesale Magnolia in California. I used silver dollar Eucalyptus branches and magnolia branches in my arrangement. Wholesale Magnolia also sells beautiful wreaths and garlands. It is a beautiful way to bring a natural holiday feel into your apartment or house. I surrounded the branches with tiny pumpkins, gourds and pine cones. I chose pillar lighting surrounded by sparkling glass acorns and bronze votives to complete the look of Fall. I placed a small pinecone on each napkin to carry the look across the entire table. You should always place something decorative on each napkin, it can even be a sprig of rosemary.
Cranberry sauce is a staple at the Thanksgiving table. Some people like the jellied cranberry sauce while others prefer a more homemade, chunky sauce full of plenty of whole cranberries. I love the homemade kind of cranberry sauce. I cook the cranberries just long enough so that most burst and turn into sauce but still enough remain whole to give the cranberry sauce some texture.
I add port wine and orange juice to my cranberry sauce so there are a few flavors dancing around the dish. You can add more or less sugar depending on how sweet or tart you like your cranberry sauce. I like it a tad more on the sweet side because I feel that it balances out the flavor of the turkey and stuffing.
Cranberry sauce can be made several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. I take out the cranberry sauce an hour or so before dinner so it is not too cold when served. I like it chilled but not cold.
This cranberry sauce also makes a great gift for friends around the holidays. You can jar it and wrap a ribbon around it before dropping it off at a friend’s house.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene, vitamin K1 and potassium. They also taste great and are beautiful to serve as a side dish. The bright orange color brightens up any dinner plate. I particularly like to serve glazed carrots with chicken or turkey which is why I am sharing this recipe a week before Thanksgiving. The other great thing about this glazed carrot recipe is that you can make it a day or two ahead of time and warm it up in the microwave or in a covered dish in the oven and they will be perfect.
The trick is to roast them in a hot oven so that they become caramelized. I add Tumeric to my recipe because I love the way the yellow Tumeric brightens the dish even more plus Tumeric is so good for you so I try to add it to my cooking whenever I can. So here you have carrots AND Tumeric in the same dish. It’s like a power dish of YUM!