Warm bread, the crunch of walnuts, the sweetness of local honey that tastes like caramel. Fall spices, crumbs, and a warm mug. Breakfast is a time I have come to appreciate as sacred. I find ritual in routine, and reverence in the first pour of coffee.
This Gingerbread Loaf lands somewhere between a cake and a breakfast treat. It's wintry and comforting, with a pick-me-up burst of citrus from the glaze. It pairs well with a Manhattan, but I also include directions for adding that Manhattan to the Gingerbread Loaf (poke-cake style). The cocktail flavoring is subtle, but adds a little something to make each bite a little more worth savoring.
Polenta with a little extra herbs and salty parmesan, a tomato sauce with lentils and sweet, soft garlic are the backbone of this dinner idea. These recipes are loose guides. Simply use what you have on hand for the sauce and follow your instincts, but add lentils for an easy, affordable meaty flavor. Then pair the leftover red sauce with another batch of garlic flatbreads, hummus, tahini sprinkled with za'atar, olives, raw fennel, radishes, or whatever crudités you have on hand, for a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern inspired Mezze.
The core of this recipe trio is honey. Supporting beekeeping is good for the bees, and honey is better for you than sugar. The Earl Grey flavor is subtle, so play with the tea quantities if you want a stronger bergamot flavor. These are all loose guides, so follow your palate and instincts. The Earl Grey Honey Simple Syrup really shines when paired with Prosecco or Champagne.
The coconut sugar gives this quick bread a dark color and almost molasses flavor. For breakfast, serve a slice with a spread of lavender infused butter. As a dessert, top a slice with a candied lemon and a dollop of ice cream. Garnish your cocktails with any leftover honey candied lemons, and one baking session will last a week!
I love hosting friends and family in our home, but I also love sitting and eating, so I always try to strike a balance of effort when it comes to menu planning. I hosted a Biscuit Buffet and provided plenty of whole grain biscuits, a few staple toppings and invited my friends to bring their favorite toppings as well as some bubbly.
From childhood tradition, straight to adulthood hibernation, sticky buns are a staple that magically bypass the dramas of those confusing, self-absorbed early 20s (as everyone should). If you're already in the clear (ie: your thirties), bake some this weekend, and relish the perspective you have gained (while your 40+ friends laugh at your naiveté).
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.