The Danish word Hygge seems to be resurging with the voracity of a seasonal flu. Perhaps it’s because our weather has finally dipped into real winter temperatures or perhaps because my peer group is reaching the nesting age, the word has been hashtagged and hashtagged again. Despite my knee-jerk reaction to the word’s overuse, I can’t argue the intention: let’s all find better ways to stay home and be cozy without completely cutting ourselves off from society. Shall we?
Winter is one of my favorite times to entertain. Extra bodies in our home means extra warmth without having to crank up the heat- win win. Aside from diminishing my guests to mere heaters, I do enjoy the coziness and comfort of having friends come to my home. I love when friends come to play a round of Clue, or warm up with the antics of charades and sip something toasty- all while I’m in my slippers!
I recently started mapping out my goals for the year, trying to distill them to months and days, and I realized one missing link from the past year: I didn’t host friends as often as I would have liked. I could chalk it up to an unruly schedule, a work overload, a lack of planning, etc, but the more important takeaway is to let the invites flow and start penciling in that calendar!
I recently invited some of the Urban Farmer’s family, who I now am very fortunate to consider my family, for drinks and snacks. In the winter, I love a crock pot full of mulled wine. The scent of simmering spices hits guests before they hit the door, and then warms their hands as they sip. Red wine tends to get all the attention on the mulling front, so I switched to a white wine with hints of citrus, honey and anise.
I tend to go overboard when planning for guests. In order to push this winter cozy idea more, I’m constantly looking for that teetering balance of manageable and special. Homemade crackers ride that fine line. They’re easy to whip up, customize and make a spread feel more homemade.
The major holidays may be over, but the winter merriment should continue. There’s no reason to pack up the oven-dried citrus or the wintry greens. They can brighten the grayest of winter days.
Call it hibernation, call it hygge, or call it some mispronounced version of that word, but don’t call off the entertaining just because the holidays are over. Heat up the crock pot, whip up some crackers, arrange some fruits, and you have yourself a winter gathering to remember!
Mulled White Wine & Homemade Cracker Recipes for Winter Entertaining
This post is a twofer! Using a crock pot to make the mulled wine means it’s easier to devote attention to the cracker making and final preparations.
Mulled White Wine
About this Recipe: I’m a big fan of Bota Box (box wines get a bad rap, but they preserve the wine’s flavor and are eco-friendly. It’s a win(e)- win(e). Pair your favorite white wine variety with comforting winter spices for a different take on the mulled treat. I used a crock pot, so I could focus on other prep, but you can also use a sauce pan and the stove top to simmer the wine and spices.
2 (750 ml) bottles of dry white wine, or ~ half a box of white wine
2 oranges, sliced into rounds
fresh juice from 1 orange
1 Tablespoon local honey
16 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
4 cardamom pods, smashed
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot, stir and let sit until warm,approximately 30 minutes. Keep warm for up to 3 hours. Strain, and serve warm with your desired garnishes.
Gluten-Free Almond Flour Crackers
Recipe adapted from Sift Magazine/King Arthur Flour
About this Recipe: This dough comes together so quickly, and in a matter of minutes, you have impressive, homemade crackers. Be sure to use a *finely ground (rather than coarse-ground), blanched almond flour in order to make a crispier cracker. The recipe includes several topping or add-in options. I used Trader Joe’s Super Seed & Ancient Grain Blend, both in the dough, and occasionally, sprinkled over the dough before baking. Do not use this blend if you want a strictly gluten-free variety. Try a sweeter version with cinnamon and nutmeg and pair with goat cheeses or fruit toppings.
Yield: 10 dozen
1 large egg (organic/cage-free)
1/4 teaspoon pink himalaya salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups almond flour, blanched or raw, finely ground*
Note: See King Arthur’s tips for flavor pairings
Super Seed & Ancient Grain Blend (Trader Joe’s)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Whisk together the egg, salt, pepper, and any additional spices or add-ins (see “tips,” below.)
Add the almond flour, stirring to make a cohesive dough.
Place the dough onto a sheet of parchment, or a piece of plastic wrap. Pat it out with your hands, and top with an additional piece of parchment or plastic wrap. Roll the dough out to about 1/8″ thickness; it should be about 10″ x 12″, or larger.
Remove the top paper, and use a pizza wheel or knife to cut 1″ squares. Move the cut crackers, along with their parchment, to the baking sheet. If you’ve used plastic wrap, spray the pan with non-stick baking spray, and transfer the crackers from the plastic to the pan.
Bake the crackers for 14 to 16 minutes, until they’re light golden brown. The crackers around the perimeter will tend to brown more quickly, so transfer those to a cooling rack and return the pan to the oven to finish baking the remaining center crackers.
Cool the crackers completely before transferring them to an airtight bag for room-temperature storage.