It’s Almost Christmas!!!

To start this post today, I’d like to say a very Happy Birthday to my cousin Sam!

Sam's 21st Birthday... 22 will be much calmer.

I can’t believe how fast this year flew by.  It’s crazy to me that Christmas is a mere 2 days away.  Am I ready?  YES YES YES!

Our Christmas Tree... It takes up the better half of the living room.

First, I want to give a special shout-out and thank you to to for featuring my Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti recipe the other day.  Because of you, I reached a record number of page views for one day at Chocolate & Wine!  What a great early Christmas present for my little corner of the Internet.

You should really make these for Christmas..

Lots of people ask me what I cook this time of year for Christmas and the various holiday parties I go to.  To be honest, the list is endless.  I try not to bring the same thing to the same place so it’s always a never-ending search for new recipes to try.

This year, I narrowed it down to a few winners.

For my best friend’s ugly sweater party, I made kale chips.  The recipe could not be simpler.  Take a bunch of fresh kale and wash thoroughly (they can be gritty so really let ’em soak).  Then rip the leaves away from the stems and place on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray.  Top with more cooking spray (instead of oil to save some cals!), a little salt and a little black pepper and pop into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  They become crisp and golden and melt in your mouth.  A really great snack or appetizer for hungry girls watching their waistlines!

Check out those sweaters. We don't play around.

For a Christmas Eve appetizer, I pinterest-ed a recipe (did I mention I’m on Pinterest now?  And obsessed with Pinterest?  Well, I am.) And I found mini toothpick caprese salads.  So easy, so healthy, so beautiful!  I’m even going to make a balsamic glaze to drizzle over the top.

Christmas Day is my favorite.  Because I come from a large Italian family, we do things in a traditional way.  And by tradition, I mean we eat and drink for approximately 6-8 hours and pass out in food comas at the end of the night.

Food Coma 101... Christmas 2007!

Christmas is a time for family and the Torto family’s ancient recipe for homemade raviolis.  These are no joke, my friends.  We already made them (in November) and they are sitting in plastic baggies in my aunt’s basement freezer waiting for their bath in from-scratch, simmered-for-hours tomato sauce.

Christmas day is served in multiple courses.  Antipasti, then escarole soup, then the ravs with meatballs, sausages and pork, then salad, then dessert.  Not to mention the finger foods we munch on before sitting down to the table or the bottles and bottles of Asti Spumonti and 2-Buck-Chuck red wine we go through.

This is Asti and it will be gone.

And that’s only with my family.  I mentioned that Stephen is Italian too, didn’t I?  That’s a whole ‘nother story (and food coma..)

I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, and great food.  And maybe a surprise or two!

Beautiful pillows of ravioli perfection. Photo courtesy of Miss Ali Reed.

Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti

When asked what my favorite cookie of all time is, I go through a list in my head: anise cookies, gingerbread, chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, nutella.  I could probably name 50 more that would fall into the “Best Cookie” category.  But this close to Christmas, my favorite switches from the every day cookie to one that has a special place in my heart.

The perfect cookie!

My recipe for Cranberry and Walnut Biscotti came about few years ago when I wanted to fill a cookie jar  to use as a centerpiece.  These biscotti are light and crunchy and won’t weigh you down after a big meal.  Inspired by a Food Network chef, they have become a holiday staple for my family and a frequent gift for friends.

Marie’s Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine, room temperature (I use Brummel ‘n Brown spread)
1 teaspoon lemon zest OR 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
2 eggs
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour and baking powder in a medium size bowl.  In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine margarine, sugar and lemon zest (or juice) until blended.  Add eggs one at a time and beat until just incorporated.

In batches, add flour mixture until blended (make sure it’s incorporated but be careful not to over mix.)  Stir in walnuts and cranberries.

Empty the dough onto the baking sheet.  Wet your hands (the dough will be sticky) and form dough into a 12-inch by 3-inch log.  Bake 40 minutes in preheated oven until golden brown.  Let sit out of the oven for 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle.

When the log is cool enough to touch, slice 1/2 inch diagonals using a sharp knife.  (A serrated knife is best.)  Arrange on same baking sheet cut side down and bake for another 15 minutes.  Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Serve with coffee, tea or a big glass of milk to dunk them in!

These keep really well so give ’em as gifts for the holidays.  It just may become the new favorite cookie in your life!