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.
Still have people on your shopping list? Skip the lines and try one of these homemade gifts for a more personalized holiday this year. There's homemade gifts for baking, bartending, sipping and self care. Plus, there's ideas for what to sip as you get crafty.
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!).
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.
I believe in salvaging old buildings, vintage pieces, rocky relationships and cake, maybe cake above all else. Three sad layers or ricotta cheesecake became a passable layer cake, and I set to smoke and mirrors trickery: dark chocolate drizzles, pomegranate arils, chocolate dipped citrus and even the pomegranate shell, which was too intricate and pretty to meet the compost bin just yet.
After presents, finishing touches on a dessert and sufficient lazing, we bundled up and joined the family for more festivities including a prime rib that fed everyone for days. It was all so cozy, I'm not quite ready to admit Christmas has passed. What about you? What did you bake/gift/receive? Here's to hiding under the blankets, watching the snowfall and eating cookies for a bit longer!
You could think of this whole grain Gingerbread Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Gingerbread Twigs as too involved, or you could think of it as an excuse to spend a day in the kitchen, mull some wine, sip said wine, light the pine-scented candles and embrace the winter spirit.
I was beginning to think Christmas tree farms were a thing of Hallmark, Hallmark movies or quaint New England towns that feel like Hallmark come to life (or better yet, scenes from "Christmas Vacation"). But thanks to my friend Theresa, I discovered Christmas tree farms do in fact exist, and more importantly, one does in fact exist nearby(ish)!