Happy New Year’s Eve (with a Mocktail & a Cocktail)

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Wishing all of my followers a healthy, happy, and inspiring 2015!

Here is a mocktail recipe and a cocktail recipe as we get ready to celebrate, with thanks, all of the good things in the year that has passed – and to toast, with joy and hopefulness, the year to come.

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Berry Happy New Year (Mocktail)

Place a scoop of raspberry sorbet in the bottom of a Champagne glass. Add 3 fresh black berries. Top with flavored sparkling water.

Enjoy!

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Sgroppino

Place a scoop of lemon sorbet and of limoncello sorbet in the bottom of a Champagne Glass.* Add a splash of vodka and top off with Prosecco. Enjoy!

• Sgroppini are traditionally made with lemon sorbet, vodka and Processco, but since I always make limoncello sorbet around the holidays – when I make homemade limoncello – I like to add a little limoncello sorbet to my Sgroppini. Sgroppini can also be blended for a slushy drink.

Happy New Year’s Eve! Happy New Year to Everyone!

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If you entertain for New Year’s Eve, please make sure that no one who drinks will be driving.

Vintage Christmas Memories

My grandparent’s aluminum Christmas tree … sparkling with decades of happy Christmas memories.

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Aluminum Christmas trees were popular in the U.S. in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, but lost popularity after “A Charlie Brown Christmas” aired in 1965 and they were touted as being symbolic of the commercialization of Christmas. But for many of us who grew up with them, they are cherished reminders of times past.

Sunflowers for A Winter Wedding

We hosted a warm and happy wedding at The Morning Star yesterday. Despite the gray skies, the couple’s choice of sunflowers for a wedding theme made everything glow, and with the fire burning it was cozy and warm inside.

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More photos at Morning Star Weddings.

Congratulations to Alex and Emmalie!

Old Fashioned Christmas (Cocktail)

Inspired by classic bourbon cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, this cocktail has been spruced up for Christmas but still retains a pleasing balance between bitter, sweet, fruity and bourbon flavors. Cheers!

Old Fashioned Christmas

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Ingredients

2 oz. Woodford Reserve or other good bourbon whiskey

1 oz. Pallini Raspicello Liqueur

1 oz. Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur

4 dashes Angostura Bitters

ice, for shaking

lemon peel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add bourbon, liqueurs and bitters. Cover and shake well –  to mix ingredients, to chill the drink and to allow a little of the ice to melt. Strain into a decorative martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel and serve.

Happy Holidays!

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

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When shopping recently, I found these Snowman Marshmallows and could’t wait to make a special hot chocolate to go with them. For this recipe I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate, Hershey’s Chocolate Mint Candy Canes and Peeps Marshmallows. “Hmmm, yum!” My company and I enjoyed our hot chocolate and cookies.

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Makes 3 servings

4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

1/4 c. candy cane pieces (about 3 candy canes broken into pieces)

12 oz. boiling water

4 oz. half and half

whipped cream for garnish

shaved chocolate for garnish

whole candy canes for garnish

marshmallows for garnish, optional

Place chocolate and candy cane pieces in a small non-stick pan. Pour boiling water over chocolate and candy canes. Stir. Turn low heat on under pan. Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Whisk in half-and-half and continue to heat mixture until hot, but not boiling. Meanwhile,  assemble ingredients for garnishing. Carefully ladle into serving cups and garnish. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Related Recipes:

Chocolat Chaud Recipe

Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

Have a great day!

Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

When baking an assortment of cookies for the holidays, it is nice to have both a variety of shapes and of flavors. Mexican Wedding Cookies are small, buttery, nut cookies, rolled in sugar that provide a contrast to drop cookies and to cut-out cookies in shape and provide contrast to chocolatey and to fruity cookies in flavor. This version, with spices mixed into the rolling sugar is both flavorful and aromatic. I made this batch last night and loved the way that they made the kitchen smell. Added bonuses are that these cookies are easy to make keep well for gift-giving. Enjoy!
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Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

Makes about 32

Mexican Wedding Cookies – also known as Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Tea Cakes, Snowball Cookies, and Butter Balls, and probably a dozen other names – are a traditional Christmas cookie  in the United States. They are buttery cookies made with ground nuts, baked, and then rolled in confectioner’s sugar. In this version, aromatic cinnamon and cloves are added to the sugar.

• 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

• 2 T. confectioner’s sugar + 1/2 c. extra for rolling cookies

• 1 t. vanilla extract, or almond extract (if using almonds), or hazelnut extract (if using hazelnuts)*

• 1 c. all-purpose flour

• 1 c. pecans, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts, very finely chopped or pulsed in the food processor to the texture of coarse kosher salt

• 1 t. ground Vietnamese cinnamon

• 1/4 t. ground cloves

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 T. of the confectioner’s sugar and the vanilla extract. On lowest speed, beat in flour and then nuts. The mixture will be very crumbly.
  3. Spoon a small about (about 1 heaping teaspoon) of mixture into one of your palms. Squeeze lightly until the mixture holds together then shape into a ball. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture, spacing the balls well apart on the 2 baking sheets.
  4. Bake for about 11 to 13 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the bottom. The tops of the cookies will be very pale. Place baking sheets on wire racks and allow cookies to cool.
  5. Once cool, whisk the spices into the remaining 1/2 c. of confectioner’s sugar. Roll the cookies in confectioner’s sugar mixture until well coated. Once you have rolled all of the cookies once, roll them in the mixture again until you have used all of it. To avoid getting finger prints in the cookies, transfer cookies to a serving plate or a storage container using a fork to lift them.

Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

North Pole Cupcakes

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These festive, chocolatey-peppermint, cheesecake cupcakes are easy to make with a food processor and can be made ahead of time and frozen so that you have them on hand for holiday company or surprise visitors – that is, unless a certain someone in your house likes to sneak into the freezer and eat them as is. You might need to make extras!  Enjoy!

North Pole Cupcakes

An easy to make, festive treat for the winter holiday season!

makes 12

Ingredients

• 12 Mint Oreo cookies (or gluten-free sandwich-style cookies)

• 2/3 c. granulated white sugar

• 16 miniature peppermint candy canes, divided

• 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips

• 16 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 1/4 c. sour cream

• 2 lg. eggs

• 1 T. chocolate liqueur

• 1/2 t. mint extract

• whipped cream for topping (canned is ok)

• shaved chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, sugar pearls, or sugar sprinkles for garnish

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin papers. Place one cookie in the center of each muffin paper.  (The cookies will be a little smaller than the bottom of the muffin cups, but the cookies puff out during baking.)

2. Unwrap 4 of the candy canes and break candy into small pieces (should be about 1 T.). Using a large food processor, process sugar and broken candy canes until they are crushed to a fine consistency. Add chocolate chips and process until the chips are finely crushed. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Scrape down bowl. Add sour cream and process until smooth. Scrape down bowl. Add eggs, chocolate liqueur, and mint extract. Process or beat until well blended and perfectly smooth. Scrape down bowl.

3. Divide cheesecake batter between muffin cups, filling to the top, but not over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheesecake batter is puffy and set in the middle. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. (The cupcakes will sink in the middle as they cool and don’t look very pretty until garnished.)

4. Once completely cool, cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. (Once cooled, muffins can be removed from the baking pan, placed in a plastic container, covered tightly, and frozen until shortly before serving. If no one sneaks into the freezer to eat them, cupcakes should keep for about 1 month.)

5. Serve cold. (If frozen, remove cupcakes from freezer shortly before serving – about 15 minutes. When ready to serve, remove muffin papers. Garnish each cupcake with whipped cream, shaved chocolate or other decorations, and an unwrapped candy cane. Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

Variation: Instead of whipped cream, top with chocolate ganache or chocolate buttercream flavored with peppermint.