We had a lovely time celebrating Christmas at Home And Family on the Hallmark Channel. Great food, lots of laughs and a really fun time goofing off. When we’re together, it truly does feel like we’re family.

I have bunches of traditions as well as  holiday “must-dos” every Christmas.  Some of my faves revolve around… you guessed it… food and drink!

My glogg is legend.  Many have had of it, some sisters have regretted drinking it (kind of), and all have enjoyed it.  My original post can be found here.  It’s good whenever the weather is cold, but is particularly lovely on Christmas Eve.

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Glögg (pronounced GLUHG)

If you wish, this recipe can easily be adapted by substituting the alcohol with apple or cranberry juice, and eliminating the sugar.

Makes 18 servings.  9 cups.

3 Cinnamon Sticks, broken into manageable pieces

10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed — or 1/4 teaspoon ground

6 whole cloves

4 strips orange peel

4 strips lemon peel

2 bottles (750 ml) dry red wine

1 cup sugar

1 cup raisins

2 cups brandy

1 cup dark rum

1/2 cup whole blanched almonds (we use slivered)

Place cinnamon sticks, cardamom, cloves and orange and lemon peels in cheesecloth and tie to enclose.

Combine wine, sugar, raisins and spice bag in 4 quart nonreactive (stainless steel or non-stick) saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then quickly lower heat and let steep, uncovered, 10 minutes.  Add brandy, rum and almonds.  Simmer 10 minutes – do not boil.

Serve immediately, Or, cool to room temperature and refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.  To reheat, place over medium-low heat until hot; do not boil.  Ladle into glasses adding a few raisins and almonds to each glass.

Make it even better:  Serve with gingerbread cookies.

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I think it’s really special to give homemade gifts.  They don’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money, but something you’ve made with your own hands shows just a little more thought.  My top two favorite food gifts to give are the Rosemary Almonds below, and toffee pretzels.  We just made some today… and about half will end up gifts.  The rest are the rewards of the makers!  Recipe here for toffee pretzels.

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Rosemary Herbed Almonds

4 cups raw, whole almonds

4 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. dried rosemary

1 Tbs. herbs de provence (if not available, substitute rosemary)

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Crush the dried herbs with a mortar and pestle or use the back of a spoon.  Heat the olive oil in the microwave for 20 seconds, add crushed herbs and mix together.

Pour  the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet.  Add the herbed olive oil and stir until all the nuts are coated.  Spread the almonds in a single layer, and place in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

I use two timers for this.  One I set at 25 minutes, the other for five.  I re-set the 5 minute timer each time I stir, and keep the 25 minute one, so I don’t lose track of the overall time.  After 25 minutes, taste an almond to see if it’s crunchy.  Don’t over cook the almonds.

When done, let cool, then add salt and stir.  Allow to cool for 1 hour before packaging.

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Finally, we have the bacon.  Sorry all you vegetarians.  (I used to be one!)  This bacon is a favorite for fancy brunches, but I often make it as an hors d’ oeuvre.  It goes quickly!  Make ahead and serve at room temperature or serve warm.  Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani is a (big) fan!

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Tamara_and_Fabio

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Candied Bacon

1 package thick-cut bacon

Fresh ground pepper

Light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.   Cut the bacon in half, and place on a rack over a foil-covered pan.  Lightly season with pepper.  Sprinkle each strip with a thin layer of brown sugar.

Place in oven and bake 25 to 40 minutes, depending on the thickness of bacon.  Remove when crispy.

Serve immediately, or set aside to cool.  Can be made one day in advance, and reheated before serving.  Best when served warm or at room temperature.

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I hope you take pleasure in our traditions, and maybe incorporate them into yours.  For me, holidays are times to share and enjoy.  I wish all the best for you, and yours.  For me, there is always something to celebrate, so enjoy!  And the happiest of celebrations to you.