Happy Holidays!!! Am I allowed to say that yet? Okay, happy pre-holidays! Is that better? I don't want to be like Wal-Mart playing Christmas music way to early and everyone's like, “It's only November, give it a rest!". But I will say that I'm getting excited for the holidays and for the soon-to-be posts I'm dreaming up. I'm teaming up with the amazing and talented Olaiya from Milly's Kitchen to bring you all a Wacky-Holiday-Fun-Time-Blog-Party-Extravaganza!!!! With balloons! Okay, not with balloons. Or half those words. But we are doing weekly posts leading up to Christmas that are going to be awesome! Olaiya has also got these hazelnut amaretti cookies for you right now over on her blog and let me tell you, they are looking delicious and divine and perfect for the Wacky-Holiday-Fun-Time-Blog-Party-Extravaganza. They keep well, they're easy to make and will impress any guests or loved ones you gift them to. I'm bringing you these festive and aptly seasonal cookies made with pine. Like pine needles straight from the tree. I baked 25 cookies and my partner and I ate them unreasonably fast. In 48 hours which equals six cookies each a day. Is that too many? I think it might be. These cookies make for a perfect gift because of the following reasons:
- They're cookies. Duh.
- They're easy to make.
- They freeze well. Actually I prefer them directly from the freezer, they taste extra decadent.
- People will be all, “oooo pine?! How rustic and seasonal." and you'll be like, “pine is the new chocolate chip bitch."
- You can tell people they're foraged pine cookies. People love that shit, they eat it up. But make sure you're clear that the pine is foraged and not the cookies, like you “foraged" them from the dumpster behind Wal-Mart. (Wow, Wal-Mart's getting a lot of exposure on here today. They should pay me. This is not an ad for Wal-Mart, I don't even shop there. Unless there's a really good deal on something which there always definitely is so then I do.)
- You can decorate your cookie tin or box with a sprig of pine to match– tie it on with some twine like all the Pinterest guys and gals do. But yours will be foreshadowing what's to come! Make it a guessing game. They get three guesses and if they're wrong, you get to keep the cookies. “Really Susan, you guessed wreath before pine needle cookies? I guess not everyone is cut out for guessing games. Maybe stick to rock-paper-scissors next time." Jk don't say that, Susan is a nice lady!
A note on foraging evergreens. Foraging pine is best in the Spring when the pine needles are young and flavourful. Summer and Fall are okay as well, but I find pine and spruce trees tend to lose their flavour once winter hits. Use the most fragrant needles you can find of a pine or spruce tree. If you cannot access a nice smelling pine, you can substitute fresh rosemary which has similar clean minty notes.
Do not forage from the tree below. It is a Yew tree and is poisonous. They are usually shorter, more bush like trees and sprout these hallow red berries that definitely look poisonous. All pine, spruce, fir and cedar trees are okay for consumption. Ponderosa pine should be avoided when pregnant. Balsam Fir needles can look similar to yew needles. The difference is Fir needles (and Hemlock) have two white strips on the bottom and Yew needles will be green on both sides.
I'm also going to be giving tips each week on how to have and enjoy your holiday parties. Because there's nothing worse than having a party but not being able to enjoy it. Maybe you overextended yourself or invited certain family members out of obligation. And now all the punch is gone and Uncle Al's wearing your sheepskin rug as a kilt while gyrating his hips to Santa Baby. (There may be no way around this one, Uncle Al is a force of nature).
Working in hospitality has made me very... what's the word? Hospitable. It can make some people bitter and complainy because serving all kinds of humans isn't an easy job but it is always a surprise. You never know if someone will leave a big tip and make your day or sexually harass you. It's a trip guys! I basically host a party every shift– the mood has to be right, your rapport with guests is key and the food should be delicious. You must also be able to read people's minds or you will get a bad Yelp review but not see it coming because when you asked them “How is everything?" and they said “Everything is great!", you believed that everything was great. Surprise! They hated it all. I don't want your party to get a bad Yelp review. So I'm here to help you avoid uncomfortable situations and give you suggestions on how to create an awesome stress free party and how to attend one and be a good guest.
Holiday Party Tips (section one)
Planning The Party
Planning the party is half the excitement. You get to imagine how much fun it will be, dream up a menu and place bets on who will get the drunkest and who will make out with whom. While planning, we must ask ourselves some pertinent questions that will affect the party like:
What time of day will the party start?
3 pm for old people, 5 pm for families with kids, 6:30 to 8 pm for adults, 12 am for guests from Spain.
What type of party will this be?
Is it a holiday brunch? Sit down dinner? cocktails and finger foods? Raging kegger?
Who will you invite?
A guest list is important to get clear on. This will set the tone of the party. You don't want grandpa mixing up his Lipitor with Jake's MDMA so maybe stay away from an all-in-one-party if this is the case. You can always have two parties! If you are hosting elderly people, they tend to like magnums of cheap table wine (they always mention how good the value is). Also make sure to turn the music way down, that's the first thing elderly people ask at a restaurant. So turn it down. Then turn it down some more because it's still too loud. What? You can't tell if it's on anymore? Yep, that's the sweet spot. If you are hosting a larger party with lots of drinkers, this means you'll need to prepare by purchasing lots of booze or making it BYOB. You may consider having a designated puke area (my suggestion is an outside bush so there's no clean up after!).
Before planning the menu, do any of your guests have dietary restrictions?
Be extra careful of peanut allergies (possible death), deadly nightshade (certain death) and dairy allergies. These people poop a lot and it's embarrassing for them and unpleasant for your post-party clean up. How people get poop on the toilet seat will forever be an enigma to me. Do they stand to poop? Or do they have a vendetta and this is their passive aggressive way of telling me? (If you've pooped on a toilet seat, please send me an anonymous email telling me why and I'll be forever grateful. Namaste.)
How much time do you have to prepare for the party?
Think about how much you can get done in the days before the party. Consider what you'll need to do in the hours leading up to the party– final food preparations, cleaning your home and getting ready before guests arrive. I find things take longer than you think, so try and do as much as possible in the days before.
Where will the party take place?
Outside if you live in a warm climate? In the dining room and kitchen? How about the living room? If you live in a 500 sq ft apartment like me, this is all one space so problem solved! You probably don't want the party in the bedroom unless you live in a studio or you're having a swingers party, but a bedroom can make for a good coat room so you don't crowd your guests. (Again unless it's a swingers party, then you want to crowd your guests). Is it on a yacht because you're rich? (but you still plan your own parties and read blogs so you feel connected with the common people.)
Will you be putting up decorations?
What kind of decorations if so? Classy silver or gold and green? A miniature Christmas town with a train running through it? That toy reindeer that poops candies? A santa face toilet seat cover and rug set?
What will you use for serving?
Your regular dishes? The fancy china? Paper/plastic for less clean up?
What day and time will it be?
When inviting people make it clear and concise with the date, location (apartment or buzzer number if applicable), time the party starts and time the food will be served. There's always that person who consistently shows two hours late so make sure it's clear when you're eating so you don't feel obligated to wait for them.
Christmas party at my place on December 23rd! Arrive at 6:00 pm for cocktails, dinner will be served at 7:30 pm. Please RSVP by this Friday. Address: 123 Pie Lane, apt #3.14. Buzzer #666. Secret password is “kosher dill".
If in question, state whether children are welcome. Or, if there will be complementary coke lines laid out on the table (the latter is likely an 80s themed Christmas party).
- Make something! I love getting a homemade gift especially if it's food. A hand knitted scarf or holiday wreath is also awesome.
- Cards. Make one! Or if you choose to buy a card, write something meaningful or more than “best wishes from stan". That feels like mediocre wishes to me, Stan. It only takes five minutes to write a few sentences and means more to people.
- Gift certificates. Great for Secret Santa gifts or if you don't know the person well. You could always make your own gift certificates for people you do know well like: babysit for an evening, take your car for a tune up, massage with (or without) happy ending, hide a dead body no questions asked (this is a good one because barely anybody redeems it. Do not give to someone in the mob or if they've ever mentioned their loan shark.)
- Wrapping. You can put a gift in just about anything. Bags, boxes, wrapping paper, newspaper, butcher's paper, magazine pages, religious pamphlets, old underwear, etc. Decorate your gift with ribbons, bows, evergreen branches, sprigs of rosemary or thyme, bells, pinecones or holly.
- For my gift this year, I would like this dad bod belly fanny pack so I can have more free hands at my next party.
Happy party planning!
PINE SHORTBREAD COOKIES
inspiration: Fall foraging
the feels: soft, crumbly, melty, creamy
eat with: milk, tea, coffee, other holiday cookies
might like if you're into: forest walks, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, foraging, indigenous foods, parties.
makes approximately 25 to 30 cookies depending on size || time: 1 hour 15 mins (prep, rest + baking)
- 3.5 cups all purpose unbleached flour, sifted
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1 + 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped pine needles (can substitute fresh rosemary)
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter (3 sticks or 1.5 cups), at room temperature
- In large bowl (of stand mixer if you have one), add butter and sugar. With paddle attachment (or hand beater) mix until just combined. Add pine and salt and mix again until combined.
- Add sifted flour and beat on low until just combined and starts to come together. Dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Add dough to surface. Shape dough into two flat disks. Wrap in plastic and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place one disk of dough onto lightly floured flat surface. Roll out dough evenly to 1/2 inch think. Cut out cookies with cookie cutter (mine were 3 inch circles). Reform extra dough together, roll out and cut more. Place onto baking sheet (I did 12 cookies per sheet). Place plastic wrap on top and return to fridge. Repeat with second dough disk. Place both baking sheets of cookies in the oven. Bake for 20 - 35 minutes (if baking one sheet at a time, 20 minutes may be enough. If baking both, you may need up to 35 minutes). Check at 20 and go from there. Bake to desired colour, some people love an all white shortbread, I like a hint of golden brown on the edges. Let fully cool.
Keep in a sealed container on the counter, in the fridge or in the freezer (my favourite). Shortbread are SO good straight from the freezer, I highly recommend trying them frozen if you haven't.
Adapted from Ina Garten's shortbread recipe.