Tag Archives: holiday

Candy Cane Vodka

Every year our holiday party gets bigger and bigger.  I would like to think it’s because Patrick and I are so super popular but I think the reality is word has gotten out about our favors – little airplane size bottles of home infused liquor.  I had seen a bunch of cute ideas on Pinterest about giving out mini bottles of booze as favors but they were all the kind you find

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2014’s Homemade Fireball

behind the checkout at your local package store.  Not only prohibitively expensive but also not as fun as making your own!  Last year it was fireball, this year, candy cane vodka.  Other infused liquors can take up to months to get right but this is super easy, as the candy canes do all the work for you.  Crushed up they melt into the vodka within an hour and ta da!   It’s a pretty subtle flavor – something that tasted like liquid candy cane sounded too much to me like cough syrup, but if you want to amp up the flavor just add more candy canes.  It wasn’t that easy to find fillable “nip” bottles but after much research I found the best quality and price here.  You may remember these mini bottles from my very first post ever when I gave out habanero infused tequila at my blog launch party.  They are super easy to fill – made a bit easier if you have a small funnel.  I use the one that came with Patrick’s flask and it works like a charm but I think with a steady hand you could do it unaided.  I ordered really cute labels this year from Tiny Prints but if you want to save money just print out your own labels like I did last year or tie with a festive bow.  My friends hoard these things – I caught my friend Amy packing some bottles for a long international flight months after the party!  This recipe is for a huge amount (here is where Costco vodka can be your friend) assuming that you are going to make your own bottles but really it’s just a method – crush up a mini candy cane and throw it into your drink and you will get the same flavor.  Cheers!

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Candy Cane Vodka (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   stocking stuffers or favors
Special Equipment:  mini bottles like these and a mini funnel (optional)

  • 1.75 liter bottle of vodka
  • 30 mini candy canes or approximately 15 regular size candy canes

Crush the candy canes in a plastic bag with the bottom of a pot or another heavy object.  They don’t need to be pulverized, just broken into small pieces.  I poured half of the vodka into a pitcher and kept half in the bottle so there was room for the candy canes but if you have a large enough pitcher for both, combine them together in one.  If not divide up the crushed candy canes between the two vessels and allow to sit for an hour, stirring once or twice.  Once all the candy canes have dissolved you can store at room temperature indefinitely.  Decant into small bottles – a 1.75 liter bottle will fill approximately 40 nip bottles.

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Candy Cane Vodka

  • Servings: 40
  • Print

Special Equipment:  mini bottles like these and a mini funnel (optional)

  • 1.75 liter bottle of vodka
  • 30 mini candy canes or approximately 15 regular size candy canes

Crush the candy canes in a plastic bag with the bottom of a pot or another heavy object.  They don’t need to be pulverized, just broken into small pieces.  I poured half of the vodka into a pitcher and kept half in the bottle so there was room for the candy canes but if you have a large enough pitcher for both combine them together in one.  If not divide up the crushed candy canes between the two vessels and allow to sit for an hour, stirring once or twice.  Once all the candy canes have dissolved you can store at room temperature indefinitely.  Decant into small bottles – a 1.75 liter bottle will fill approximately 40 nip bottles.

Cookie Decorating Party

It’s easy to get bogged down during the holidays with all of the very important staff adults “have to do” like attend boring work parties, address and send hundreds of Christmas cards, not to mention the daily vacuuming of pine needles.  An easy fix is to spend an afternoon with some kids decorating cookies.  Seriously, I came up with the idea of this party because I thought it would be fun for some of the little people in my life but the adults had just as much fun as the kids.  It was so therapeutic that my friend Tara said she hadn’t been that relaxed in months! So bust out the frosting and sprinkles and have yourself a party.

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Keep the party low key so you can enjoy yourself – I took several short cuts.  First and foremost cover your table!!  We made a ridiculous mess but I had put down craft paper before we started and at the end of the party I just rolled it up and tossed it (along with about 3 pounds of marshmallows).  I went a step further and bought premade dough.  Did you know they even sell it rolled out for you??  Normally I am a bit of a snob about these things but in the interest of my sanity, and the fact that I knew the cookie would just end up being a means of delivering frosting I took the shortcut and was glad I did.  If you want to make your own this recipe has always worked for me.

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It is important to make the cookies in advance, even the day before if you want.  Cutting out cookies is hard enough for adults let alone kids but also you can’t frost them until they are completely cooled.  Trust me you don’t want to be the one telling the kids they have to wait an hour to decorate!  Turns out I had a million different holiday cutters (shocker) so we had snowmen, wreaths, trees, stars, gingerbread men, and snowflakes.

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I decided to make my own frosting but you can certainly buy tubes of the premade stuff.  Just make sure you have lots as the icing went fast!  I used Wilton’s Royal Icing recipe – it’s great because it hardens fast but you may need to tinker with the proportions, I found I needed a lot more water than called for.  To make the different colors I really like gel coloring because you need a lot less of it than standard liquid food coloring and the colors are a lot richer.  I did white, red, green, blue, yellow and purple cause heck it was a girls cookie party.  I also put out some mini marshmallows and Hershey Kisses for decorating/snacking.  My friends Karin and Tara brought their adorable girls Sophie and Grayson who dove right in.

It is also important to have some non-cookie food to munch on.  I made mini pizzas and a cheese board (with some bubbly for the adults of course).  It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon and in the end each kid had a special box with their names on them to pack up their cookies and take them home.

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Everyone had a great time and with about 1 hour of prep time I was able to pull this off.  Who can argue with a party that comes with a cookie goodie bag?  I think this just might become an annual tradition….

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What You Need For A Cookie Decorating Party

Special Equipment:

  • different varieties of sprinkles, candies and marshmallows
  • craft paper for the table
  • milk for dunking
  • frosting and squeeze bottles for frosting (or tubes of frosting)
  • bags or boxes to take home cookies
  • cookie dough – premade or homemade
  • cookie cutters
  • snacks
  • a couple bottles of bubbly (in case of emergency)

Holiday Salad

When the holidays come around I basically wrap myself in everything Christmas – the house full of decorations, 24/7 carols on my iPod, and festive cocktails and dishes.  This salad is pulled from one of my recommended cookbooks, Ottolenghi, from Monday’s post Peep My Cookbooks.  It’s crisp and refreshing, which makes it a nice foil to the often heavy, comfort food type dishes that get cooked in December.  It also happens to be red, white and green!  The pomegranate seeds are little jewels in the salad but they aren’t just for show – they add a nice pop of juice and tartness.

Lots of supermarkets these days sell little containers of the seeds themselves but it’s a lot cheaper to buy a whole pomegranate and seed it yourself.  It’s really very easy (instructions below) and with the leftover seeds you can decorate a cocktail, stir them into rice or top ice cream.  Sumac isn’t the easiest spice to run down, middle eastern markets will carry it.  If you are in DC area, Yekta is an amazing Iranian market in Rockville.  Luckily our friends Debbie and Toby live around the corner so anytime I visit them I make sure to stop and stock up.  Otherwise you could find it online.  If you can’t find it I would just skip it as there isn’t really a comparable taste, smokey and lemony all at once.  Don’t worry, the rest of the components still make it a great dish.  This is also a good one for a buffet because it’s served at room temperature and the fennel won’t wilt under the dressing like regular lettuce will.  Doesn’t it make you want to run out and grab the book?

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Fennel and Feta Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: Fennel and Feta with Pomegranate Seeds and Sumac from Ottolenghi
Special Equipment:  mandoline (or a very sharp knife)

  • 1/2 pomegranate or 1/3 cup seeds
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons tarragon leaves
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves
  • 2 1/2 ounces feta, cut into small cubes

First seed the pomegranate – halve the pomegranate and hold one half, cut side down over a bowl.  Use a spoon or another hard cooking tool to smack the skin side of the pomegranate.  Keep “spanking” the pomegranate and the seeds will loosen and fall into the bowl.

Set the seeds aside.  Next cut off the stalks of the fennel bulb saving some of the frilly green fronds for garnish.  Discard the outer layer if it’s brown or bruised.  Cut the fennel bulb in half and then use your knife to cut out the triangle of core on each half (its pretty tough but you can leave the core in if you don’t want to do this step).  Using a mandoline or a sharp knife cut the fennel in very thin slices.

Place the fennel in a bowl and toss it with the olive oil, sumac, lemon juice, tarragon, parsley and fennel fronds.  Toss well and season with salt and pepper.  Add the pomegranate seeds and feta and toss lightly until they are incorporated.

Holiday Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Inspiration: Fennel and Feta with Pomegranate Seeds and Sumac from Ottolenghi
Special Equipment:  mandoline (or a very sharp knife)

  • 1/2 pomegranate or 1/3 cup seeds
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons tarragon leaves
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves
  • 2 1/2 ounces feta, cut into small cubes

First seed the pomegranate – halve the pomegranate and hold one half, cut side down over a bowl.  Use a spoon or another hard cooking tool to smack the skin side of the pomegranate.  Keep “spanking” the pomegranate and the seeds will loosen and fall into the bowl.  Set the seeds aside.  Next cut off the stalks of the fennel bulb saving some of the frilly green fronds for garnish.  Discard the outer layer if its brown or bruised.  Cut the fennel bulb in half and then use your knife to cut out the triangle of core on each half (its pretty tough but you can leave the core in if you don’t want to do this step).  Using a mandoline or a sharp knife cut the fennel in very thin slices.  Place the fennel in a bowl and toss it with the olive oil, sumac, lemon juice, tarragon, parsley and fennel fronds.  Toss well and season with salt and pepper.  Add the pomegranate seeds and feta and toss lightly until they are incorporated.

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