Champagne, Pork Chops & Presents: How We Christmas’d in 2018

With each passing year, I try to whittle away at my perfectionism, or at least guide it to where it is best directed (remember? lower the expectations!). Christmas morning is not one of those places. Though I want a touch of decadence, and I want to create a morning to remember and a breakfast to savor, that experience should not come at the expense of sequestering myself in the kitchen. 

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Whole Grain Linzer Cookies with Rye Flour & Lingonberry Jam

Whenever I plan gatherings, I choose to invest more time in one (or at least I *try* to invest in only one) menu item. This winter, I had been craving the flavors and simple beauty of Whole Grain Linzer Cookies, or Helle Linzer Plaetzchen if you fancy the German title. Named for the Austrian Linzer Torte, a latticed pastry with jam filling, these buttery shortbread cookies and peeks of jam feel like little ornaments. In the vein of European traditions, I chose a Swedish lingonberry jam for a burst of red filling (and because I dream of participating in a St. Lucia celebration someday!). 

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Homemade Bitters: A DIY Holiday Gift for Cocktail Connoisseurs

By definition, bitters are bitter and aromatic herbs and spice infusions in tinctures or spirits. You’re probably familiar with the bar staples: Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, but with the recent focus on mixology, bitters have come to the forefront. There has been more focus on the flavors of bitters and how they can enhance a drink. With the right packaging, homemade bitters are also a perfect DIY gift idea!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract: A DIY Gift Idea

I'm choosing not to stress and to enjoy my final Christmas preparations. Homemade gifts are one of my defense mechanisms against the holiday hangups. Instead of battling feuding families in malls, hit the wine and spirits shop (extra bonus: might as well buy yourself some wine while you're there) and your favorite spice store. Two stops, and you'll have the makings of homemade vanilla extract. Cue up your favorite holiday albums (Mariah Carey and She & Him, for me please), spike the egg nog, and then, it's as simple as pouring liquid over vanilla beans. 

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Pumpkin Pecan Pie aka Pumpcan Pie (Gluten Free)

"I'm a genius," he proclaimed, then looked at me like a used car salesmen and an online guru in one. "Follow me on this. Pumpkin pie. Pecan Pie. Everybody wants both. Why do they have to be separate? [dramatic pause] Just combine them in one pie! One pie! A Pumpcan Pie!" Then he mimed a mic drop and took credit for everything that proceeds from here (except the chocolate chips. They were my own rogue doing.)

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Gluten Free Whole Grain Pie Crust That Doesn’t Suck

Pie guide after pie guide will tell you, with great emphasis, "do not overwork the dough," but where are all those pie guides when the liquid is spent, and the dough resembles a swath of desert? CRICKETS! The whole process puts my perfectionist self on edge because all I want is to deliver the flaky pie crust that friends and family (and sometimes complete strangers) expect, and I want it to be whole grain. That's challenging enough, but then, you want to make a gluten free whole grain pie crust? Well, here it is!

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