Smoked Salmon and Caper Spread

All the flavors of a perfect bagel sandwich, only finger-friendly and fancy.

Smoked salmon and caper spreadI’m not a huge New Year’s Eve person.  I count it among the most overrated of holidays, especially because I refuse to pay cover at a bar, on principle, just because it happens to be the last day of the year.  I’m lame that way.

But I CAN get behind snacks, always, any day.  And New Years Eve is a good time to make snacks.  If you’re hosting a group of people, they need something to eat with that champagne, right?  Here’s something easy and oh-so-classy to add to your shindig: smoked salmon and caper spread.  It’s finger-friendly, it’s drink-friendly, and it’s make-ahead friendly.  Quite simply, it’s friendly!  And your friends will love it back.

New Year’s Eve?  Overrated.  Snacks and friends?  RATED.  (I don’t underrate them. They are both actually really good things.  And it’s probably impossible to overrate both.  So….new adjective.  You’re welcome.)

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Eggnog French Toast Casserole with Gingersnap Streusel

A make-ahead recipe that is perfectly moist and subtly eggnog-y, with a sweet and spicy gingersnap cookie topping.

Eggnog French toast casserole

 

First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!  Or if you don’t celebrate, happy December 24th.  Either way, here’s something delicious to add to your table over the next couple days!

But first, some real talk: I really struggled with naming this dish.

There were two fairly obvious options, but each carried very clear social expectations.  Some people might ask what’s in a name, but I’ve found that what you call a food is incredibly important in determining how you intend to interact with it.  Context, people.  It’s real.

Would you rather try a Patagonian toothfish or a Chilean sea bass?  Regardless of your answer, you probably have two very different images in your head based on each name.  (For me, the first image is rather terrifying.)  And since you already know where this story is headed, you know those must be the same fish.  (Context again!)

And even without giving things unusual names, all labels create expectations.  You know when someone offers you dessert, and then brings out a plate of fruit, and you’re super disappointed because fruit is most definitely not dessert but a health food you avoid at all costs? (Just me?)

So what were the names I was considering?

One is at the top of this post: eggnog French toast casserole.

The second, reluctantly rejected option? Eggnog bread pudding.

YOU SEE MY DILEMMA!

Eggnog french toast casserole

Is this breakfast or dessert?? It’s both!!  I considered compromising and calling it eggnog French toast bread pudding, but that just sounds like I have an affliction causing me to yell out random words.

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Cranberry Orange Muffins

Both sweet and tart, these tender cranberry orange muffins are perfect for the holidays, or any day.Cranberry orange muffins

What, exactly, is cranberry season?

And by that, I’m not asking about when the fruit is harvested (although it may correlate).  No, just like pumpkin spice has a season, as does gingerbread, as does peppermint (why are all of these Starbucks latte flavors, come to think of it?  Bravo, marketing team, bravo) — is there a cranberry season?

If there is one, it would probably have its peak around Thanksgiving.  I don’t suppose anyone eats cranberry sauce the rest of the year.  But cranberry baked goods seem rather cozy for all of wintertime.  I mean, cranberry bliss bars live on at Starbucks until January or something, right?  Since they seem to be my barometer of seasonality?  Not to mention the cranberry color is so wonderfully holidayish.

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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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