This stew is basically the love child of two of my favorite recipes: Cooking Light’s Beef Daube Provençal and The New York Times’s Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew. It will make your house smell heavenly and have your family singing your praises. It’s a very easy recipe, too, and cooks hands-free for a few hours so you can tend to other things. This makes it great for a dinner party, as you can get the table set and the sides—I like to serve it with mashed potatoes and a bright, bracing salad—pulled together, not to mention yourself.
A big pot of chili just screams comfort and goodness. But you don’t always have hours to devote to one, y’know? This chicken chili, with a broth that’s both, well, brothy and slightly creamy, takes only a little more than a half-hour to make. It’s deeply savory and full of flavor, thanks to a few well chosen ingredients. The broth gets its body from pureed beans (it’s not thickened with flour), so it’s gluten free. You’ll be happy you made it whether it’s a cold, damp night or a warm evening—it’s an all-weather chili!
Well, this post is short, sweet, and simple. No step-by-step photos or instruction needed! The cookies are easy to make and pretty hefty in size; one is plenty big to satisfy a sweet craving.
I just love these spiced chocolate sugar cookies! They taste like Mexican chocolate, with cinnamon warming the sweet chocolate notes. I use just a little bit of cocoa for more of a milk chocolate flavor than a dark chocolate one. See the notes below the recipe card for ingredient/decorating tips.
Another critical ingredient for these cookies is meringue powder, which helps the icing set up hard so that you can stack and package the cookies with no worries of destroying your beautiful decorations. You can find it in the baking section of craft stores.
One of my favorite ingredients ever is whole-wheat pastry flour. I’ve touted it before, and I’ll do so here again! Its fine texture works beautifully in all types of baking recipes, and it allows me to make 100% whole-grain treats with great texture. Here’s the kind I use (the house brand from Whole Foods).
Now for the fun part, the decorations. Piping is easy and goes quickly. You can use a piping bag with a #1 or #2 tip (which is what I did), or use a zip-top plastic bag and cut a tiny hole in one corner to pipe from. My piping skills are not very good, but the cookies still look pretty great!
For the trees, I mixed up some natural food coloring (India Tree brand—shown in the photo on the right) to create a deep green color. Yellow + blue = green. To create colored icing, I simply spoon some of the white icing into a small bowl or ramekin and mix in the color with a butter knife. I then use the knife to spread the icing onto each cookie. You can pipe the icing, too, but the knife method works really well for me.
I then gathered up round sprinkles, tiny nonpareils, and edible silver dragées for the designs. You’ll want to spread the green icing over the entire surface of the cookie and then apply your toppings while the icing is still wet. You can apply in either in a random pattern or—my favorite—with tweezers to create strings of lights. Whether you’re a white lights person or a colored lights person, you can make your tree cookies reflect your style.
For the reindeer, I used brown gel food coloring (not natural food coloring, sorry) to create a lighter doe-like color for the deer. I felt that the natural chocolate color was too dark. I spread the brown-tinted icing over the entire surface of the deer, and then each deer got a collar of either small nonpareils or larger round sprinkles, a blue nonpareil for the eye, and a red round sprinkle for a Rudolph nose.
Finally, for the stockings, I started off in a hilarious way. I had some gorgeous fluffy purple glitter that made amazingly beautiful cookies. But then I realized that this purple glitter was not edible—it had been placed in the wrong crafting box! So that stunk… I then proceeded with new stockings. First, I decorated the cuff with white icing that I topped, when still wet, with white sparkling sugar. Once that dried, I covered the rest of the stocking with white icing and topped with red or green sparkling sugar. For the others, I let the white icing dry completely and then brushed on copper and silver luster dust. (I have some eyeshadow brushes that came free with purchase that are perfect for this. No, I never used them with cosmetics. They are for food only!)
You can find all of the decorating supplies at craft stores. They’re a great investment that you can use year after year (I’ve had that luster dust for maybe five years.)
My last bits of advice when you’re decorating Christmas cookies:
If you want to decorate with your kids, you have to let them do their own thing. Let go of your own expectations and let them have fun. (If you want gorgeous cookies for teacher gifts, maybe decorate by yourself after the kiddos go to bed.)
Allow yourself plenty of time to decorate. If this needs to come together in an hour, you’ll drive yourself crazy.
Make sure you have plenty of space to allow the cookies to dry. Once decorated, I place them on either sheet pans or these large plastic platters I have and move them out of reach of my big dog. He has helped himself to food on the table when I’ve turned my back.
Get creative and have fun!
Cranberry-orange bread always feels like a holiday treat just bursting with winter fruit flavor. It’s a lovely treat to make for yourself or to offer as a gift to teachers, friends, and family. My version is healthier than many you’ll find, made with whole-grain flour and less sugar. See below for a few tips and how-to photos.
When prepping the loaf pan, line it with parchment paper to make removal much easier. Place the paper down on a surface, place the pan in the middle, and make diagonal cuts from each corner of the paper to the corner of the pan.
This makes it easier to fit the paper into the pan, firmly into the corners.
Next, I call for whole-wheat pastry flour here. It’s an ingredient I absolutely love and use all the time. It’s finer in texture than whole-wheat flour or white-wheat flour, making it ideal for baking projects. Here’s the kind I use:
Last little tidbit. Please take note of my words above about the streusel. There’s a good bit of it.
And that gives you excellent coverage over the batter:
Trust me, you wouldn’t want any less! The bread is delicious just as it is. It’s just a little less poofy, that’s all.
Well, we’re officially in the busiest month of the year—or at least it’s the busiest for me and every other human I know. Among all the fun social commitments, errand-running, holiday shopping, cookie baking, and cramming in of end-of-year work that just has to get done, there’s little time for everyday cooking. And that’s where the good ol’ slow cooker comes in handy. To be completely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the slow cooker … until life gets insane enough for me to admit that it really is pretty darn useful. Let it do the work for you, making this comforting, delicious, nutritious (check out that fiber!) meal that will feed you and your family for multiple nights. There’s very little prep involved, and then the slow cooker just does its thing while you go about doing your thing. The pork ends up meltingly tender, and the beans are the creamiest ever. If only everything in December could be this easy and this satisfying!
This recipe is so simple that there’s not much to show, step- or technique-wise. I do recommend buying a bone-in pork roast, as the bone always seems to add more flavor and helps to keep the pork moist. And please, please, please brown it before it goes into the slow cooker. That step builds deep, savory flavor and is more than worth the few minutes it takes. Remember, brown = flavor. I don’t add any oil to the skillet when I brown the roast (you really don’t need it).
As for the beans, they go into the slow cooker dry. They cook to creamy perfection over the long, slow simmer, picking up all the yummy pork flavor, as well as that of the broth and the other flavorings:
Well, I forgot to show the garlic, but garlic goes in with the beans, along with bay leaves, oregano sprigs (or dried oregano), and an optional ancho chile. I love what the ancho adds—no real heat but instead richness and depth, with a hint of bitterness. I fished it out before dishing this up for the kids. But I sort of mashed it into my serving. Delicious!
That’s it! That’s all it takes to make a warm, comforting, hearty, big-batch meal that will pull you through the busiest December day.
Everyone needs a good recipe for great ranch dressing, right? This one is easy, fresh, and packed with flavor. It’s really good served very cold—either draped over crisp greens or as a dip for veggies. My current favorite way to have it is shown above: a simple iceberg (yes!) salad with sliced grape tomatoes and bacon. Simple can be so good.
I certainly love a good red-sauce lasagna—but a creamy white-sauce version? Oh yeah, I’ll take that any day. My Creamy Sausage and Spinach Lasagna is rich and indulgent–tasting, yet clocks in at fewer than 400 calories per serving. The sauce uses a combo of flour-thickened milk and chicken stock to keep things light, and chicken Italian sausage pulls its weight, flavor-wise, without loading on calories and fat. (Scroll below recipe card for photo step-by-steps on layering.) Hooray for lasagna night!
This lasagna does involve a little bit of prep: browning the sausage, wilting the spinach, making the sauce, and shredding the mozzarella (seriously, please shred it yourself from a block; it’ll melt smoother and be creamier). Before you start layering, gather all the components together:
And then rearrange them in order of the way you’ll layer them in the pan. Then spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of the baking dish…
And top with two of the lasagna noodles.
Then sprinkle over one-third of the cooked sausage.
Top with one-third of the spinach.
And then 1/3 cup of the mozzarella.
Spread 1/2 cup sauce over all that.
Repeat those layers twice, and then top with 2 more noodles and the rest of the sauce.
And finish with the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Then cover the dish with foil and bake at 375°F for 40 minutes.
At that point, the lasagna will be done, but just a little pale. See?
But then pop it under the broiler for a few minutes (and top with parsley), and wow—hubba hubba!
I’m trying to get ahead for Thanksgiving. My kids are out of school the entire week, and I’ll happily have a houseful of extended family, too. And that, of course, includes my dad, who suffers from celiac disease. I’m always looking for good gluten-free recipes for him—especially desserts, as he has quite a sweet tooth. I wanted a casual cake that I could have on hand for general snacking but that would also be good enough to put out with the holiday feast. And I got there with this recipe. I cannot even express how pleased I am with this cake; it’s one my favorite desserts I’ve ever created, gluten-free or not. My kids agree: They even asked to have it at their birthday party last week! (We ended up opting for something else, but still—they requested it!) Keep reading below the recipe card for some tips and process photos!
As I mentioned above, I needed a gluten-free dessert for my dad—and I wanted one that everyone else would love, too. I was unwilling to settle for anything that folks would say was good for a gluten-free cake. That would not be good enough. Thankfully, after a little trial and error, I got there. This cake is just flat-out GOOD. It’s gluten-free, relying on almond flour and gluten-free all-purpose flour (also make sure your baking powder is gluten-free). This is the a-p flour I used:
A little bit of this gluten-free a-p flour lightens the texture of the almond flour, giving the cake a moist, tender texture. (Almond flour alone would produce a dense cake.) Next, the apple variety you use is crucial. And I contend that the only choice is Honeycrisp. It gives a ton of concentrated apple-y flavor, much more than other varieties. I originally tried chopping the apple, but it remained a little too crunchy in the finished cake. So I switched to shredding the apple, and holy cow did that work well! The little apple shreds melt into the batter and distribute the flavor more thoroughly into every bite.
After the cake bakes, make sure to allow it to cool completely. If it’s warm when you top with the icing, you may tear off the tender top layer of the cake as you try to spread, getting crumbs all in the icing. (You may still get a few crumbs in there with a cooled cake, but only a few.)
Use a sharp, thin knife to cut the cake. It’s so tender that it’s a little tricky to cut—not a bad problem if you ask me! And one of the best things about a snack cake is that you can just keep it in the pan and serve straight from there. (Keep leftovers in the fridge since there’s dairy in the frosting.)
If you look out on the ol’ interwebs, you’ll find lots of recipes similar to this one (it’s a pretty classic soup). Many include potatoes (mine doesn’t) and lots more sausage than I choose to use. I keep an eye toward sodium and go with only 12 ounces of kielbasa. The Target near my house sells 12-ounce packages of it (I don’t remember the brand), and it’s more than plenty to flavor the whole big pot of soup.
Well, folks, this veggie-loaded soup is just so easy and straightforward that I don’t have any technique or process photos—none needed! All you need is the recipe card. And maybe a side of cornbread. Enjoy!