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December 2014
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Coquito is a Puerto Rican beverage similar to eggnog or rompope (Mexican eggnog). It is traditionally enjoyed on nochebuena, or Christmas Eve. It is given out as a gift in festively wrapped bottles. Sweetened condensed milk is used to sweeten, evaporated milk is used instead of milk, and coconut milk and rum give it an island flair. Think of it as eggnog that went on vacation and is laying on a tropical beach with sun, Reggae music, and the scent of coconuts wafting in the breeze. The silky texture and tropical coconut flavor will certainly bring some festive cheer to your Christmas Eve celebrations.

from: Winter Cocktails
makes: two 750 ml bottles worth

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 (2 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into rounds or 1 teaspoon chopped ginger from a jar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk*
1 cup white rum
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish


Bring evaporated milk, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and discard solids. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Place spiced milk mixture, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, rum, egg yolks, vanilla, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg in a blender and blend until fully combined and foamy, 1 to 2 minutes.


Pour into chilled glasses and dust with additional cinnamon and nutmeg. If giving as a gift, or not serving right away, funnel into jars or bottles that have tight fitting lids and store in the fridge.


* Do not substitute cream of coconut for coconut milk-it will make the coquito far too sweet

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Holiday Spice Cookies

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I found this recipe in Southern Living in the Community Cookbook section, which for that issue supplied a few recipes from Food to Die For  (yes, an actual book with “funeral food” recipes). I was not sure whether to laugh or be horrified, but these cookies were originally called Cemetery Ginger Cookies. Nope. What a macabre and morbid name for some incredibly delicious and delightful cookies. I hereby christen them Holiday Spice Cookies. These are easy to make, just make sure to plan ahead, as the dough needs to chill for a few hours before baking. I know I have raved a few times about Molasses Spice Cookies which are greatly loved by my family, me, and probably anyone else who has eaten them. I daresay I like these better. My husband respectfully disagrees with me, but to each his own. They are both pretty friggin’ delicious. The molasses spice have perhaps a bit more spice flavor and the molasses is definitely more prevalent as they have twice the amount of it. The cemetery ginger holiday spice cookies have a bit more forward ginger flavor, but the spices in this cookie are well rounded and pleasantly warming. Good luck keeping the cookie jar filled!

from: Southern Living November 2014
makes: 5 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (the dried ground ginger, not the chopped stuff in a jar)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
Demerara sugar, for rolling
parchment paper

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Stir together the first 6 ingredients.

Beat butter and granulated sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 to 3 minutes or until creamy. Add molasses and egg, beating until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until blended after each addition. Cover and chill 2 to 4 hours, the longer the better in my opinion.

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Preheat oven to 325 F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in Demerara sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on 2 parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Flatted balls slightly with bottom of a glass.

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Bake in batches for 12 -15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

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Hot Cococa Mix


There are few things I love better than a hot cup of cocoa. It is my dessert of choice any time of year, but especially when there is a decided nip in the air, the days turn dreary (a winter joy here in the Midwest :( ) and Christmas is around the corner. Hot cocoa always cheers and warms me right up. My cocoa tastes might not be so refined, as I love a small, decadent cup of thick drinking chocolate as much as a mug of Nestlé cocoa made with water. When I came across Smitten Kitchen’s post a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to make it. She adapted the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated by omitting the powdered milk, upping the cornstarch, reducing the salt and vanilla, and switching out the unsweetened chocolate for semi-sweet/bittersweet. I couldn’t locate my issue of Cook’s that had the recipe, and you have to subscribe separately online to see their online recipes, so I just decided to make her (almost) exact recipe.  I’m not sure what the original recipe tastes like, but Deb’s adapted version had me curling my toes with joy. The only thing I did differently was to double it (duh), use 3 ounces each of bittersweet and semi-sweet, and I used the seeds from half a vanilla bean. I then made a cup (all in the name of taste-testing of course) with plain almond milk. Those of you who can’t/don’t drink cow’s milk rejoice. This hot cocoa is delicious sans dairy. My husband tells me it’s delicious with cow’s milk, so feel free to use whatever milk you like best. The next best thing to sitting by the fire/window with a mug of hot chocolate? Sharing it with friends and family. Put some in a jar with a note for directions and a tablespoon measure and you have a lovely homemade gift. Check out the wrapping ideas below.

slightly adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
yield: about 3 1/2 cups, which is about 18 to 19 servings

1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from a half of a fresh vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until powdery. If you don’t have a food processor, chop or grate the chocolate until it is as fine as you can get it, and stir it into the remaining ingredients. The cocoa mixture will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.



To use: Heat one cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat until steamy (do not let the milk boil, or the cocoa will taste “off”). Add 3 tablespoons hot cocoa mix. Whisk over heat just until the cocoa is hot and the mix is completely dissolved. Pour into mug, top with marshmallows or a dollop of whipped cream and some shaved chocolate. Grab a cozy seat by the fireplace, or if you don’t have a fireplace either, a seat by the window with a view of the twinkling Christmas tree.



ideas for hot cocoa mix:

in a mason jar with lid and tablespoon measure
in a bag inside a mug
in a basket along with homemade marshmallows or mini marshmallows, chocolate-dipped candy canes for stirring, and perhaps a bottle of…
Irish cream, dark rum, peppermint schnapps, Frangelico, or Kahlua for a yummy nip


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Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Chunk Cookies


This is one yummy peanut butter cookie. It is neither too dry and crumbly, nor too moist. It is the perfect balance between crunchy and chewy. When I made these, they yielded quite a few dozen. I sent some to David’s office and put the rest in the freezer. They are very good fresh, but I also love pulling one out of the freezer (pretty much every day) and having a nice little peanut buttery, chocolate-y snack. These would be perfect for your Christmas cookie jar, but once filled, you better guard it closely! Make sure you plan accordingly when you make these cookies, the dough needs to sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before baked. The authors of Baked advise against substituting a darker chocolate for the milk chocolate.  Semisweet chips taste almost bitter against the peanut butter, whereas milk chocolate is a “natural and delightful combo”.

from: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
yield: 2 dozen larger cookies or 3+ dozen smaller cookies

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Skippy Natural)
6 ounces good milk chocolate, coarsely chopped



Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat until just incorporated.


Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a small or large cookie scoop, scoop and roll dough into balls and roll around in a bowl of granulated sugar. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart. With the palm of your hand, very gently press each cookie down so it forms a very tall disk shape. Do not press too hard, and do not press it flat.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until the tops of the cookies just begin to brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the individual cookies to the rack to cool completely.


The cookies can be stored in an air tight container for up to 3 days. (Or frozen for weeks…if they last that long.)



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Between The Sheets

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This provocatively named cocktail is pleasantly tart and very smooth. It is stronger than it’s cousin the Sidecar, though perhaps lacks a bit of the Sidecar’s distinctive and enduring magic. (Recipe coming soon!) However, it is definitely a good cocktail when one is in the mood for something smooth with heavy notes of citrus.

from: Vintage Cocktails
makes: 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces V.S. Cognac
1/2 ounce Benedictine
1/2 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a burnt orange peel*

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*Better than me trying to explain how to flame an orange peel, here is a nice article with video.



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Corn and Cauliflower Tacos


An easy and delicious vegetarian meal that is bursting with flavor.

slightly adapted from: Forest Feast
makes: about 4 or 5 tacos

1 small cauliflower head, cut into small florets
corn kernels from 2 ears (or about 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used ancho with a dash of cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
olive oil
salt and pepper
warm tortillas
Greek yogurt
feta cheese, crumbled
hot sauce



Toss the cauliflower and corn with enough olive to coat and add the pepper flakes, chili powder, garlic powder, and some salt and pepper. Roast on a rimmed baking sheet at 425 for 15-20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is starting to get nicely browned around the edges.



Spoon into warmed tortillas and top each taco with a dollop of Greek yogurt, some feta cheese, and a few dashes of hot sauce.


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Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese, Rosemary & Honey


adapted from: Ladie’s Home Journal July/August 2013
serves: 4

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (1-lb) pork tenderloin, silverskin removed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, plus a few sprigs for garnish.
3 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons honey


Combine garlic powder, coriander, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Rub all over tenderloin and let sit for 30 -60  minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese with the chopped rosemary. On a sheet of wax paper, shape the goat cheese into a log, roll into the wax paper and store in the refrigerator until needed.


Grill pork tenderloin directly over medium-high heat 6 minutes per side, turning once, until well browned. Move pork to indirect heat, cover grill, and cook for 6-10 minutes more until internal temperature is 130. Allow to rest 10 minutes. (Internal temperature will continue to rise to 145.)

Remove the rosemary goat cheese log from the fridge and cut into slices.

Slice the pork and place on a platter, putting slices of rosemary goat cheese between every few slices of tenderloin. Drizzle with honey, place a few sprigs of rosemary for garnish on the platter and serve.


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