Moscow Reindeer

A festive red-and-green cocktail that will boost your holiday spirit, no matter what!Moscow reindeer

Do you have relatives descending on you for the holidays?

You need this drink.

Do you have small children wearing your patience out bit by bit?

You need this drink.

Is the constant barrage of Christmas music starting to shred your nerves?

You need this drink.

Have work projects kept you so busy you can’t even breathe, much less sleep, much less bake cookies and decorate and write Christmas cards and do anything else that makes spirits bright? Ooooo oOooOooOO, meeeeeee!

I.  I need this drink.

I’m going to take a second for a self-indulgent rant.  First of all, I’m supposed to be on vacation right now.  I won’t say where, because then the first-world nature of these problems will become even more readily apparent, BUT we had reservations for a beautiful spot, and I was supposed to be relaxing on said unnamed beach, right at this very moment.  Then Ross got sent off on a boat — fine, ship — for his job.  And then my job got so incredibly busy that I long for the days where I had time to go to the break room and make a cup of tea.  I was literally at my desk today croaking, “So thirrrrsty!” without time to quench my palate.  Nearly died, folks.  Okay not really.  But I’m extremely short on sleep and Christmas traditions.  I tried to watch White Christmas while typing away on my laptop this weekend, and it sucked.  I didn’t even see all the cool tap-dancing scenes with my head buried in my work.  I haven’t sent a single Christmas card, and I keep receiving beautiful ones from friends that make me feel both happy and guilty for not reciprocating.  I have bought ONE Christmas present so far (Dad, you’re a lucky guy), and the shipping days until Christmas are growing slim.  In short, this holiday season is not all snowflakes and cookies.

But that’s why the baby Jesus, later in life, decided to turn water into wine.

If you’re stressed out, if you’re tired, if you’re overworked, if you’re hangry (or thangry), here’s a drink for you.  Observe:

1. It’s red and green, so it’s embodies the Christmas spirit.

2. It’s served in a beautiful cup, so it’s pretty.  If you don’t have copper mugs, it’s STILL pretty in a clear cup, because Christmas colors! — see (1).

3. It’s named after a magical Christmas creature.

4. It’s both refreshing and delicious.

5. It has booze.

Moscow Reindeer

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Nutella Hot Chocolate Brownie Bites

Have your hot chocolate and eat it too. Nutella hot chocolate brownie bites combine a creamy filling, rich ganache, and swirls of marshmallow frosting.
Nutella hot chocolate brownie bites

I made these for you.

Well, just kidding.  I made these for a party last Friday.  Although…were you at the party??  If so, I made these for you.

If you are part of that “you” that I made these for, well, lucky you indeed.

What are “these,” “you” ask?  Why, they are Nutella hot chocolate brownie bites.

Let me explain.  I really wanted to bake something reminiscent of hot chocolate, because that’s something I crave regularly in the winter.  And it may be 80 degrees here in Houston, but no matter, it’s winter and I want hot chocolate.  But how to create a solid that’s based on a liquid?  You average it all out and go with…Nutella.  And ganache.  Oh and frosting.

That’s actually a surprising amount of items straddling a couple states of matter.  End result? A miniature brownie that reminds you of a cup of hot cocoa when you eat it.  Ummmmm yes please.  Please?  Now.

Nutelle hot chocolate brownie bite

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Hot Toddy

The ultimate hot toddy recipe: sweet and soothing and not to be shared.

Hot toddyI’m told hot toddies are helpful for relieving cold symptoms.  I’ve discovered they’re much more multi-purpose than that.

Bad day?  Chilly day?  Long day?  The kind of day where you literally cannot even?

Drink this toddy and I guarantee.  You CAN even.

…Can curl up in a blanket and drift away on a wave of happiness, that is.

True story: one time I did drink a hot toddy when I had a cold.  It was marvelous.  It was also a new drink to me, one which Ross whipped up when I came home and said, pathetically, “By dose iz stuffee.”  He had happened to see the recipe in Fine Cooking not long before, and thought it would be a great time to try it out.  So I put on my PJs, sat on the couch, and held out my hands expectantly.

Hot Toddy

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Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Cream Cheese and Lemon Curd Filling

Ginger sandwich cookies with cream cheese and lemon curdAll my soft-and-chewy cookie people, raise your hands.

Wow, there are SO MANY OF YOU!
Just kidding, I can’t see you from this side of the computer.  Yet I feel confident that there really would be many hands waving if I asked this question of a large group in real life.  And for all those folks, this cookie’s for you.

I actually love this cookie for many good reasons.  In addition to the chewiness, there’s the deliciously spicy ginger and molasses flavor.  There’s the fact that it’s a SANDWICH COOKIE, which is always fun, and which means you get to eat cookies in multiples of two without any judgment.  And then there’s the filling.  The original recipe pairs the ginger molasses cookies with a sweet cream cheese filling, which is delightful on its own.  Cream cheese is an excellent friend to spiced baked goods.  And heaven knows I’ll smear it on anything.

But then I got another idea.  It’s just slightly crazy, I know….but it’s crazy enough to work.  

Ginger sandwich cookies with cream cheese and lemon curd (more…)

Homemade Stock

Homemade stockThe week after Thanksgiving seems like an appropriate time to share a recipe for stock.  If you’re like me, your turkey meat went faster than expected (I mean, c’mon, I was planning to avoid cooking again for AT LEAST a week), but you’ve hung onto some leftover turkey bones, just waiting for the opportunity to make your kitchen smell like joy and happiness.  This recipe will work equally well with either a turkey or chicken carcass, and I suspect it would be pretty delicious with any other variety of bones as well.

The first time I made stock from scratch, I was living in a tiny apartment in New York City.

I’ll digress for a moment to emphasize just how small this apartment was.  Because unless you’ve lived in Manhattan, you may not understand what “tiny apartment” means.  

It was 180 square feet.  

Technically, it didn’t even have a kitchen.  It was called a “kitchenette.”  I had a mini-fridge, a mini-oven, a couple burners, and maybe two feet of counter space.  Literally.  (Archer voice: “Wait.  Yeah, literally.”)  But it was in my student budget, and it’s amazing what you can tolerate when you just tell yourself, hey, it’s basically a dorm, and that’s fine.  

In spite of its size, I cooked regularly.  It was cheaper than eating out, and it gave me a nice break from the law school books.  I quickly learned that normal-sized cookie sheets didn’t fit in the oven.  Luckily K-Mart carried some mini sheets that got the job done.  I also rolled out what I still consider my best pie crust ever on those two feet of counter space.  Let me tell you, it’s difficult to overwork the dough when you’ve got a sink crowding your right, a microwave bumping your left, and using the rolling pin is almost impossible so you just make a couple passes and say, ehhhh, good enough.  That crust was so incredibly flaky that I haven’t been able to replicate it since.

This apartment was also the first place I made chicken stock from scratch.  Turns out, it was one of my greatest ideas ever.  Before I gave it a shot, I assumed chicken stock was one of those things that’s too time-consuming to be worthwhile when you can just buy a can at the grocery store.  I mean, was it really that much better homemade?

It is.  Oh trust me.  It is.  Not to mention, “time-consuming” is a gross overstatement.  Active time is negligible, and while it will simmer for hours, it’s not only hands-off, but it’s also a wonderful wonderful thing to have going on in the background on any given day.  This is why…

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