Easy Brunch Cocktail

This is the best cocktail for Christmas brunch, but it's also perfect for any party this season. It's great for a crowd too!

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend, and I am thrilled to be guest posting today to bring you a festive holiday cocktail: pear prosecco punch.

In my house, I always make a huge Christmas brunch to enjoy after opening presents. The feast starts with sausage balls & pigs-in-a-blanket (oldies but goodies) and coffee for breakfast while we all tear through gifts. Late morning, I pop everything in the oven, and we sit down to a huge brunch complete with berry French toast, quiche, fruit, and of course, a festive cocktail. There are only three of us every year, but we always manage to have a full-fledged feast. This is the best cocktail for Christmas brunch.

One trick: freeze a bag of cranberries and keep them on hand in your freezer. Warm prosecco isn’t tasty. Frozen cranberries can be used in place of ice to keep your cocktails cold. They won’t water-down your beverage, and they’ll look festive, too!

Pear Prosecco Holiday Cocktail

Let me know if you give this a try! I’d love to hear what you think. Happy holidays!

xo, Nicole

Pear Prosecco Punch
serves 1

You will need:

– 2 oz Pear concentrate (I use Looza)
– 4 oz Prosecco
– Rosemary sprigs & frozen cranberries for garnish

To prepare:

Pour pear concentrate into a champagne or wine glass. Top with prosecco. Add a rosemary sprig and frozen cranberries for garnish.

photos by Nicole Letts

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It’s the Little Things

This year more than any other, I think that the holidays will be about the little things. We will all be staying home, and cooking for a small crowd. What better time to try new things, like new recipes, and new ways to make your table setting really special? Below, I’m sharing a few ways to really make the holiday season special.

Flower Arranging:
How about honing your flower arranging skills. I personally love combining grocery store flowers and pumpkins and gourds, with branches and herbs I forage from the garden every year. It’s a great time to use an unexpected vessel, like an old pitcher or a soup tureen.

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Here are some easy tips on flower arranging:

While it might seem like a daunting task, arranging your own flowers can be simple yet stunning, and honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than to arrange flowers for my own home or parties. If you follow a few easy steps, you’ll be arranging your own flowers in no time!

When beginning the design process, I start with what’s available at my local market (and even Trader Joe’s!), and I try to select a strong color theme. Selecting just one color flower, but choosing several varieties in that same color, is an easy way to pack a punch without a lot of thought. It honestly cuts way down on the stress, especially if you’re not quite ready for combining colors.

Step one: clean the bottom of the stems, and make a fresh cut.

Step two: place all the fillers in your container. For this arrangement, I’ve chosen a pitcher for my container, and Queen Anne’s Lace and Baby’s Breath as fillers.

Step three: add in your larger blooms. Be sure to work your way around the vase or pitcher. Either move around the table as you work, or spin your container to make sure your stems are even.

Step four: step back and fluff your arrangement as needed. Try to change the water every 2-3 days, and cut the stems on a diagonal every few days, too. This will keep your arrangement fresh and pretty! You can add the gourds and pumpkins around the table, maybe add a few smaller vases as well strewn around the table. More is more and more is better.

Making a Charcuterie Board:

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Create a special Charcuterie Board for your family. I usually prepare this as lunch. It’s super fun to design and even more, fun to eat. You can nibble while your main course cooks. Great if you’re watching games or working on a puzzle.

Setting the Table:

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This is R. Woods Tablescape small but lovely

I think that setting the table with a glass of wine in hand the night before is always fun. I like to put on some festive music and take my time.

Some of my go-to affordable table sources are Zara Home, Ikea, and Pottery Barn. Every year I try to buy some little addition to my table. This year I bought more candlesticks just to make the table even more glowy and happy. I also ordered some new colorful table wares from my friend potter Rebecca Wood, she also offers Ikebana Floral Lessons if you’re interested.

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This a table from the Zara Home Collection

My takeaway message is to make it special even if this year is so much different than every other year. Count your blessings and stay safe. Next year will be a big year to celebrate all the sacrifices we made. Keep the faith and keep your distance. And use this extra time to learn a craft and next year you’ll be a decorating pro. Happy Holidays.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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My Hanukkah Latkes

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I make homemade sweet potato + Yukon potato latkes with homemade applesauce every year for Hanukkah. This year might look a little different from the usual holiday celebrations, but that doesn’t make them any less special. If you’re celebrating Hanukkah this year, give my yellow and gold latkes recipe a try. Actually, give these a try regardless of your celebrations; everyone loves latkes!

Yellow and Gold Latkes
serves 4 to 6
You will need:

– 3 medium size sweet potatoes
– 3 medium size yukon gold potatoes
– 2 eggs
– 1/4 cup matzo meal
– 1 small yellow onion diced
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1 cup olive oil
To prepare:

Prepare a paper towel-lined cookie sheet for finished latkes.

Hand grate potatoes, so they are shredded. Add salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

By hand, squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes, transfer to another mixing bowl.

Add eggs, matzo meal and diced onion and mix.

Note: if the potatoes still have some water, it’s fine to add 1 more egg and more matzo meal to bind.

In a large skillet put 1/4 cup oil and heat. Drop-in latke mix with a spoon forming small pancakes.

Fry in the oil until golden and crispy.

Place cooked latke pancakes on the towels to drain oil, and continue to fry the latkes and drain. You will need to continue to add oil to the skillet as you continue to fry the latkes. Place the cooked, and drained latkes in the oven on low until guests arrive.

Serve with homemade applesauce, sour cream, or non fat plain greek yogurt.

xx Annette

Latkes photo by Stephanie Meyer for Food & Wine

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Alex’s Moon Pies

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So many of you asked for this recipe, and Nicole my web manager, was like “We have to post this story and the recipe!” so here you are…here’s the story about Alex’s moonpies.

My daughter Alex has always been a great baker; maybe it’s her analytic Virgo nature, but baking has always appealed to her. Although she is a good cook, baking is her thing. One of the best things she makes, (her Dad’s favorite) is Moon Pies. This Thanksgiving, she shared the story of how she became acquainted with the recipe I had never heard the story and thought it was fun.

She was not very familiar with Moon Pies. Although it is a quintessentially Southern sweet, it’s not something that she grew up with in our house. Most kids grew up on Little Debbie’s Moon Pies in Atlanta, but not our kids. Although we do enjoy Southern fare, this was not something in the pantry while they were growing up. Not because they aren’t delicious, but they were never on my radar probably because of my Midwestern roots. (Note* I had never tasted a biscuit until I was 23 years old when we moved to Atlanta.) Southern food was a mystery to me. I digress…

Alex went to Law school, and when she graduated she found herself in Fitzgerald, Georgia, in the deep South clerking for a Judge. She loved living in this small town and working in the courthouse. The Judge was very kind, and she learned a lot.

One day, she walked into the Judge’s office and said, “I know it’s your birthday next week, and I would love to bake you something you would enjoy, so if there’s something special you like let me know.” The next day the Judge came into her office with a recipe for Moon Pies. Having never tasted a Moon Pie, she was a bit nervous about making them for his special day. Even though the recipe was involved, she thought they turned out great, although she never tasted the batch, she delivered them on his birthday hoping for the best. The next day he came into her office and declared that the Moon Pies were absolutely delicious! Relived and curious, Alex made the recipe again, this time tasting them. Wow, she thought, worth all the effort. They were truly incredible.

Moon Pies have now become Alex’s signature dessert, her Dad asks for them for all birthdays and holidays. They have become a staple dessert. Who knew what we were missing all those years.

Here is the recipe from Garden and Gun Feb/March 2014:

It is labor-intensive, but truly worth the effort.

Do-It Yourself Moon Pies

For the dough, you will need:
– 6 oz. unsalted butter
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
– 1/4 cup Steen’s cane syrup
– 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, ground fine
– 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp. baking powder
– 1/2 tsp. baking soda
– 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 2 tbsp. whole milk

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For the Marshmallow, you will need:
– F4 tsp. powdered gelatin
– 1/2 cup water, ice cold, plus 1/4 cup at room temperature
– 4 tbsp. light corn syrup
– 3 tbsp. honey (clover or wildflower)
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 3 large grade-A egg whites

For the chocolate coating, you will need:
– 1 lb bittersweet chocolate (61-70% cacao)
– 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil.

To prepare:

For the cookie dough:

    Cream butter, brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, for 1 minute.
    In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix on low speed; slowly stream in milk. Continue mixing until the dough comes together. Press dough flat, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
    Turn out chilled dough onto a flour-dusted surface, then roll it until it is ¼ inch thick. Stamp out cookies using a 3-inch round cookie cutter. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, and while the cookies are cooling, start your marshmallow.

For the marshmallow:

Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup ice-cold water, and set aside.

Combine ¼ cup room-temperature water, corn syrup, honey, and sugar in a small pot, insert candy thermometer, and simmer until mixture reaches 240 degrees. When the thermometer reaches 200 degrees—but not before—place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whip on high.

Once the sugar mixture hits 240, remove it from heat, and stir in the bloomed gelatin. Then, while egg whites are whipping, slowly drizzle the hot sugar mixture down the inside of the bowl to avoid spattering the hot syrup. Continue whipping for an additional 8 minutes, until the mixture stiffens. The pan will still feel warm to the touch but no longer hot.

Flip over half of the cooled cookies. Lightly coat a spoon with nonstick cooking spray, and spoon approximately a quarter cup of marshmallow onto each flipped cookie. Use the remaining cookies as tops; gently push down until you can see the marshmallow come just to the edge. While making the chocolate coating (see below), allow cookies to chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

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For the chocolate coating: 

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate has melted, then remove bowl from heat and let it cool slightly. Once the chocolate is no longer hot, but warm, slowly whisk in oil in a steady stream. Allow chocolate to cool at room temperature for about 5 minutes before proceeding with assembly.

To Assemble: 

Submerge chilled cookies in the chocolate, using 2 forks to gently lift the sandwiches out of the bowl. Let stand until shell hardens.

Photos: Garden and Gun, Feb/March 2014 Photo Credit : Johnny Autry, Recipe by David Guas Current restaurant: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, Arlington, VA

 

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Thanksgiving Cocktail

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I have always loved Frangelico; it is a hazelnut liqueur that is traditionally served as an after-dinner digestivo. There is a legend that Frangelico was made by Friars in the Piedmont region of Italy where hazelnuts are abundant, it has a beautiful, nutty flavor profile.

Even if you’re hosting an intimate, family-only gathering, it’s a good idea to make a batch Thanksgiving cocktail. For one, you can make it ahead of time, and for another, everyone can fill their own glasses, leaving you more time to gather with your guests.

This recipe for the pumpkin monk is a palette pleaser. It’s not too sweet because of the citrus notes, and it has a lovely mouthfeel. It’s a delicious way to enjoy the flavors of the season.

Thanksgiving Cocktail: Pumpkin Monk
serves 16 (or 2 cocktails per person for 8!)

You will need:

– A large punch bowl
– 16 oz. Frangelico
– 16 oz. Appleton Reserve Rum
– 12 oz. lemon juice
– 8 oz. pumpkin spice syrup

To prepare:
Pour all ingredients into a large punch bowl and stir well. Serve over ice in a rocks glass or serve up in a coupe. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

For the Pumpkin Spice Syrup
*
this makes 1 cup which is 16 servings

You will need:
– 4 teaspoons cinnamon
– 2 teaspoons ginger
– 1 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 teaspoon allspice
– 1 cup water
– 1 cup sugar

To prepare:
Place in a pot, then bring to a boil and reduce about 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

Photo Credit: Dane Sponberg

xx Annette

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