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December 6, 2016

The Best Desserts for a Christmas Party

Today,  I am participating in a progressive Christmas dinner with my friends at The Blended Blog
To start off the meal, there are Drinks with Whitney, then, Appetizers with Sheila and a Main Dish with Deena, and to finish off the meal, there are Desserts with me.  I am sharing my top three favorite desserts. These are yearly favorites at my house!

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon whole aniseed
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
3/4 cup shelled natural unsalted pistachios
6 ounces imported white chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift first 3 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl to blend well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lemon peel, vanilla, and aniseed. Beat in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in cranberries and pistachios (dough will be sticky). Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Gather dough together; divide in half. Roll each half into 15-inch-long log (about 1 1/4 inches wide). Carefully transfer logs to 1 prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart.  Bake logs until almost firm to touch but still pale, about 28 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature. Carefully transfer logs still on parchment to cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle sawing motion, cut logs crosswise into generous 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place slices, 1 cut side down, on remaining 2 prepared sheets. Bake until firm and pale golden, about 9 minutes per side. Transfer cookies to racks and cool.

Line another baking sheet with waxed paper. Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water just until smooth. Remove from over water. Dip 1 end of each cookie into melted chocolate, tilting pan if necessary; shake off excess chocolate. Place cookies on prepared sheet. Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen servings.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.

16 ounces frozen organic wild blueberries (do not thaw)
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw; about 3 cups)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

2 Pie Crust dough disks
Heavy whipping cream (for brushing)
Freshly grated nutmeg (for sprinkling)

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and begins to boil, stirring occasionally, 12 to 14 minutes. Continue to boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer berry mixture to glass or ceramic dish; cool completely (mixture will thicken). Cover; chill. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer crust to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish; trim dough overhang to 1 inch. Remove cinnamon sticks from filling; spoon into crust. Roll out second dough disk to 13x10-inch rectangle. Cut dough lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide strips (11 to 12 strips). Arrange half of dough strips across top of filling, spacing evenly apart. Form lattice by arranging remaining dough strips at right angle to first dough strips and weaving strips, if desired. Trim off excess dough from strips. Brush edges of bottom crust lightly with whipping cream. Press dough strip ends to adhere to bottom crust edges. Fold edges of bottom crust up over strips, pinching to seal. Crimp edges decoratively. Brush edges and lattice lightly with cream. Sprinkle lattice strips lightly with nutmeg. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling thickly, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool pie on rack.  Serve pie at room temperature.

15 oz. (3-1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. table salt
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 large egg white (see note at right)
6-1/2 oz. (1-1/2 cups plus 2 Tbs.) confectioners' sugar; more as needed
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Decorating sugar or edible dragees (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest and rosemary. Add the egg and vanilla; continue beating until well blended and smooth, about 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough is just combined; don't over mix. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Roll one half of the dough between two sheets of parchment to an even 3/16-inch thickness. Slide the dough and parchment onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line four cookie sheets with parchment. Using a 3-1/2-inch (or similar) Christmas tree cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and arrange them 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Press the scraps together, re-roll, and cut (if the dough becomes too soft to handle, chill until firm). Repeat one more time and then discard the scraps. Repeat with the remaining dough. Bake two sheets at a time until the cookies' edges are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating and swapping the sheets' positions halfway through for even baking. Cool the cookies on racks. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth. If not using immediately, transfer the icing to a small bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the icing to prevent it from drying out.

Spoon some of the icing into a small pastry bag with a small (3/16 inch) plain tip. (Or use a small plastic bag and cut a tiny bit off a bottom corner of the bag.) Pipe the icing onto the cookies to outline the rim. (If the icing is too thick to pipe, put it back in the bowl and stir in water, a drop at a time, until it pipes easily but still retains its shape. If the icing is too thin, add confectioners' sugar, 1 tsp. at a time.)  If using decorating sugar or dragĂ©es, apply them while the icing is wet. Once the icing is completely dry and hard, store the cookies in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For cookie cutters, I typically use a tree, but these snowflakes would also make cute cookies, and the cutter is under $5.

Also, if you are looking for a great hand mixer - I just got this one - and I love it!  I have had a mixer that works so well.  For those of you that still like to use a hand mixer, I highly recommend this. It would make a great Christmas gift.  They also offer an option with less speeds for $30.

These recipes are taken from my two favorite magazines -- Fine Cooking and Bon Appetit, along with my favorite cookbook.

Be sure to stop by The Blended Blog to start the progressive dinner - and get all the delicious recipes.

 And, if you are still shopping... 

Click here to see my top five picks for your best friend or sister. 

If you are looking for some funny gifts (ones that will make everyone laugh), I shared some ideas here.

And, are you looking for some gift ideas for your husband, boyfriend, or dad, I shared some great gift ideas here.

I shared my top five kitchen tools in this post - and they would all make great Christmas gifts.

If you are looking for some gift exchange ideas or ideas for your boss or a stocking stuffers, I shared some ideas here.

Lastly, my top five Christmas movie recommendations.

 I am participating in the following link ups.

December 5, 2016

The Best Pot Roast Recipe

 I do not typically post on Monday's, but today, I am joining my friends at The Blended Blog in a recipe hop.  We are sharing some of our best recipes.  One of my favorite meals in the winter is pot roast.   It is so hearty and savory and the perfect cozy meal. I typically make creamy polenta and roasted vegetables to go along with it. 

December 1, 2016

Top Five Gift Ideas for Your Best Friend or Sister

 If you are shopping for your best friend or sister and need some ideas, I thought I would share my top five gift ideas for your best friend or sister. 

1. JEWELRY under $25
If you are looking for something under $25 - these are a great option and they look just like the David Yurman rings.  Or these rings are would make the perfect stocking stuffer (and under $20)!

2. FUR
I love my fur vest in the winter.  It is an extra layer of warmth, and always make me feel a little more dressed up.  Your BFF or sister might love a fur vest or jacket - this short cropped vest - and this winter white one are my favorite.  Or, this rich burgundy faux fur jacket.

Fringe and ruffles are big trends this winter season.  One of these fringe sweaters would be the perfect trendy Christmas gift.  I especially like this fringe sweater by Scotch & Soda/Maison Scotch (also I think that name is kind of fun!). 

I always get compliments when I wear my ruffle sweater, and this one by Endless Rose is one of my favorites.

I can't decide between these two - plaid scarf or bag charm.

I really like these plaid blanket scarves.  They are perfect winter plaids - and would be so cozy and stylish.

Or, these bag charms - like these fun ones.  Another option would be these cute pouches for your handbag- like this one with the flowers!  (And, if you want to splurge on a bag - these bags are one of my favorite - this particular bag has been on my wish list since I saw them - and now there is the fun fringe one.)

For your bestie or sis that loves to write or keep a journal, I think these are so pretty!  Or, for your friend who is a planner or has big ideas/dreams.  And, a fun pen to write with. (And, if you are like me and always loose my pen in your bag, this organizing bag would be a perfect gift, too.)

Lastly, you might want to check out the 60% off sale.  Plus, everything ships for free (and returns for free, too) - so no risk.

And, aren't these the cutest jackets (the ones from the picture above)?

 I am participating in the following link ups.

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