Mele Kalikimaka! Get your surf board and a Mai Tai, we’re going gifting!
Cocktail gifts as bright and colorful as a Hawaiian sunset. And slushie machines. And light up fountains. For the person in your life who likes a side of tropical flair with their drinks, we’ve picked out a few of our favorites that would make great additions. Coconuts, pineapples, RUM, and more pineapples. I think all our bases are covered.
This post is brought to you by Beaujolais Wines. Recipes and ideas are my own.
This holiday season I’m taking a step back from all the hustle and bustle, all the commercials and “must buys”, and taking a moment to spend time with family and friends in the most fun, totally seasonal, best way possible to celebrate the holidays: a cookie decorating party. But this party is for adults only. Why? Because we’re cracking open a bottle of Beaujolais to celebrate our nearest and dearest all while having some holiday fun.
If the idea of hosting a holiday cookie decorating party makes your palms sweat (I need how many cookies?!?!), even with a glass of wine, just hold on, because I’ve got some tips and tricks that will make this party a breeze!
1. First, let’s talk about the wine. While you might think Beaujolais wine is best served slightly chilled in the summertime, it’s actually a great wine to have around the cooler winter months too. That’s because it goes well with just about anything; including cookies. If you’re thinking ahead towards all your holiday meals this month, try picking up a case to have on hand. Serve it at meals and keep a bottle handy for the random relative who stops by unannounced! And if you can, try and get a mixed case. That’s right! Beaujolais comes in red, white and rosé.
2. Cookies. You have a couple options here when it comes to the cookies.
Are you someone who can whip up 4 dozen batches of cookies without blinking an eye? Then baking them all from scratch shouldn’t be an issue. Go you!
Pressed for time? Make half the cookies from scratch and buy the rest. Most grocery stores with a bakery will have unfrosted cookies on hand like sugar cookies. Personally, I am terrible at making sugar cookies so I bought mine. But I have a fantastic gingerbread recipe that makes solid cookies every time (see below). So I made those for the party.
You can always ask people to bring undecorated cookies too! There is probably a friend or relative in your life who likes to bake. Reach out to them for some help making cookies, they probably would love to bake!
3. Decorations. With endless possibilities for decorating, limit yourself to just a few ideas. You’ll end up with less waste and won’t have a pantry full of half used sprinkles and sanding sugar to deal with the rest of the year. For my cookie party, I made one batch of royal icing and put scoops into smaller piping bags and mixed a few colors right in the bag. Again, if you haven’t the time to make icing, guess what? You can buy it and it will work just fine! For decorative elements, I kept it simple with some colorful sprinkles, red and green sanding sugar, edible silver balls, and some tiny edible gold stars I had left over from another cocktail project. You could go even less than this if you wanted, or just use icing and nothing else. We also had some filled cookies so I put out a bowl of raspberry jam that was in the refrigerator. You probably already have some things at home you could use!
4. Plan your stations. Short on space? No kitchen table? No problem. Set up a cookie decorating space where people will have access to cookies, plates, napkins, and bowls for putting decorations in. Don’t forget the wine glasses and wine tags too! A kitchen counter is a great setup. I have a long buffet at home that people could grab everything they needed. Not enough room at the kitchen table? Set up a cozy holiday blanket on the floor for everyone to spread out on. Remember to tell guests to bring slippers!
5. Packing it up. After all the fun your guests will have decorating cookies and celebrating the season with a glass of Beaujolais, remember to have containers ready for guests to bring their cookies home in. This could be as simple as a small paper bag, or pick up a bulk pack of gift boxes. Going this extra step shows your guests you’ve thought of everything and will save you the hassle of trying to find to-go containers at the end of the night for everyone.
I hope I’ve inspired you to create some new holiday memories in a fun and creative way! Cookie decorating should definitely be on your holiday party list this year. And don’t forget the Beaujolais! Cheers!
Gingerbread Cookies and Icing Recipe Adapted from Bouchon Bakery
Makes about 20 cookies
6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1 pinch dried cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temp
1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup blackstrap molasses
2 eggs, room temp
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Combine all the dry ingredients, except the brown sugar, into a bowl. Whisk ingredients together until they are evenly combined.
In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and dark brown sugar together on medium speed until fully combined. Once the dark brown sugar is evenly incorporated into the butter, add the molasses and continue to mix the ingredients scraping the bowl down as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing on medium speed until ingredients are fully combined.
Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the dry-ingredient mixture in three equal batches, mixing until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, then mix on low speed for about one more minute, just to ensure that all the ingredients have come together.
Form the dough into a block and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until lightly chilled throughout.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out the desired shapes and place onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 325 for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before decorating with royal icing.
Makes about 2 cups
1/2 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
Food coloring, fruit powder, or yogurt powder (optional)
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld electric mixer, mix the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Add sugar and mix until smooth. Add lemon juice and mix until smooth. Add food coloring or powder if desired, mixing until your ideal shade is reached.
Pipe the frosting onto the cookies using a pastry bag. Allow the icing to harden and store the cookies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to three days.
After booze, books are always a solid gift choice…
Got a cocktail enthusiast on your list this year? There’s plenty of great books that have been released recently to stir up some creativity. Here’s 9 of our favorites to give as gifts this holiday season for newbies through the professional.
This post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.
The last of the Halloween decorations made their way back into the garage this week. The hold outs were the two trick or treat buckets still filled with candy that were slow to empty. Of course, all the good stuff went immediately. And when I say that I mean that my husband and I ate a good portion of the better candy immediately after the kids went to bed. Then there were the thousands of lollipops, off brand candy, and miscellaneous stuff thrown into the buckets that hung around too long. So those got chucked and the buckets, to my children’s surprise, mysteriously disappeared along with all the rest of the decorations by morning.
This holiday always symbolizes quantity over quality, and while I type that out I feel like that’s a lot of holidays now. So that got me thinking about how I can make some little changes for the remainder of the holidays this year to show quality, and thoughtfulness, in the gifts given to others. And for me, one way I like to show that is with handmade gifts.
I’ve teamed up with Truvia® to craft some special holiday treats that can be used for hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, welcome gifts for out of town guests, or a special treat for someone “just because.” I feel like there’s always someone in your life who could use a little treat for that very reason. I come from a family who are makers. On both sides there are artisans, farmers, photographers, builders, crafters, seamstresses, and my grandfather and uncles can build a classic car from the ground up. Making something, crafting it with your hands, and sharing it with others is very important to me. But you don’t have to build a car. In fact, today I’m making caramels.
Bourbon caramels! Quality treats, but for adults only. These little packages of deliciousness come together fairly quickly but require some stirring and a watchful eye. The hardest part is waiting overnight for them to set. The sweetness comes from Truvia Brown Sugar Blend, a blend of stevia sweetener (the sweet leaves of the stevia plant) and brown sugar, for 75% fewer calories per serving than regular brown sugar. You still get that deep, rich caramel flavor that brown sugar imparts, and the bourbon not only adds a little kick, but it also brings its own vanilla and spice flavors to the caramels.
So I think it’s time to get in the kitchen and make some treats!
A few notes on making the caramels:
Yes, there’s not a lot of volume here, but trust me, you will need a larger pot than you think for when the mixture boils later. Once the dairy is added it boils up but that’s normal!
Cream of tartar! Why is it here? Good question! Because corn syrup is not used in this recipe as it is in most caramel recipes, we need something to inhibit the formation of sugar crystals. Corn syrup is an invert sugar that does just that (honey is as well and sometimes you will see recipes call for that but I’ve heard conflicting opinions on how well it works) but cream of tartar introduces an acid to the mix that also will help inhibit those sugar crystals to form and give a smooth texture to your caramel.
Since we’re using Brown Sugar Blend it will be hard to tell when the mixture has started to burn, other than smelling it and you don’t want to get to that point. The last 50° when waiting for your mixture to hit 350° goes rather quickly (getting to 300° usually takes awhile) so stay nearby watching the thermometer or using an instant read thermometer with an alarm for when it reaches temperature.
This is a bourbon forward recipe. Feel free to cut back to a 1/2 ounce for a more subtle flavor.
2 cups Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ounce bourbon of your choice
3/4 teaspoon flakey sea salt
Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides of the pan.
In a large pot, combine the Brown Sugar Blend, cream of tartar and water and set over low heat. Whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves completely, around 5-8 minutes. If sugar crystals appear above the surface of the syrup, wipe down the sides of the pot with a damp pastry brush (I keep a bowl of water nearby with a silicone pastry brush).
When the Brown Sugar Blend dissolves, clip an instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar (if using a thermometer with a wire string, do not immerse the string). Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the syrup to a boil, whisking until bubbles begin to form, then stop stirring. Continue cooking the Brown Sugar Blend without stirring, brushing down the sides of pot if crystals form.
When the syrup reaches 350°F (this took about 20 minutes for me) remove it immediately from the heat and add in the heavy cream and butter. The mixture will start to bubble up at this point so use caution.
When the mixture settles, stir with a silicone spatula until smooth. Return the pot to the stove and boil until the mixture reaches 248°, around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bourbon and salt, stir to combine.
Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined pan and bang it on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Let the caramels set for 6 hours, or overnight, in a cool, dry place.
Once set, caramels can be cut out to desired shapes and wrapped in parchment paper. Will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks.