Amaro Spritz Punch

Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca

Hello holiday people!

For my final post of the Holiday Blognanza with Olaiya from Milly's Kitchen, I've made you this delicious punch that will charm the pants off you and your guests. That could be a good or bad thing depending who your guests are, so invite cool and attractive people to come drink with you just to be safe. Olaiya has a recipe for toasted buckwheat granola with tahini and dark chocolate up on her blog for you to indulge in and feel good about it. This punch is perfect for pre-dinner drinks, alongside food or after food. It's versatile because it's light and contains amari that help you digest. Amari are lovely to sip on before or after a meal, particularly with some ice and a citrus peel. The fresh and bubbly flavour of this punch is reminiscent of orange crush but a very adult version being less sweet and added notes of bitterness. It even tastes amazing flat if you don't drink it all in one night. Pour it into a sealable bottle or mason jar and keep in the fridge for tomorrow's Christmas movie or a night cap. I brought a leftover bottle of this flat punch to a friend's place last night and it was a huge hit. Such a hit that as I write this, my mind is foggy from the evening's holiday cheer and lack of sleep so forgive my briefness. It was totally worth it. Now go whip up a batch of this delicious stuff (it only takes a couple minutes) and you'll be feeling extra warm and cheery in no time. 

Here are the previous holiday posts from this month if you need some food and gift ideas!

Pine Shortbread Cookies

Hazelnut Amaretti With Orange + Vanilla

Stilton Pear Cheese Ball With Pistachios + Pink Peppercorns

Small Is Beautiful: Holiday Gift Guide

Potato Cheddar + Onion Focaccia

Alison Roman's Slow Roasted Pork With Garlic, Citrus + Cilantro

 

Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca

Holiday Party Tips (section four)

 

Setting The Tone

Setting the tone of a gathering is so important. For a visceral experience, I consider what people's the senses will encounter when arriving. What will they experience in terms of their sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. 

Sight

How do I make everyone look as attractive as possible? Lighting! And booze. But mostly lighting. Overhead lights can be unflattering so unless it's your only option, side lighting with lamps and candles are a better option. If overhead lighting must be used then offset with candles and lamps or dim down if possible. Twinkly lights, a himalayan salt lamp and candles are my favourite light accents. 

Smell

Lots of delicious food aromas wafting through your home before people arrive may be all you need. I turn on my essential oil diffuser while I get ready because it's relaxes me as I ease into the evening. For a bright and uplifting scent try lemon or orange oil (you can add a little peppermint if you like which goes with both nicely). For something earthy and relaxing, lavender, rosemary and conifer work well. If you're stuffed up from winter colds or want a clean smell, half eucalyptus and half lavender is my favourite. 

Hearing

Music is key at a gathering and one of the biggest tone setters. Construct your own playlist or pick on out on Spotify or 8tracks. A classic jazz soul playlist is perfect for a winter gathering. This In The Kitchen playlist goes well with cooking, preparing and for when guests arrive. I have a few playlists with different vibes saved on my computer for when the energy changes. Maybe it evolves into a dance party (the best kind of party).  The volume level is important as well. If the music is too quiet it can feel awkward but if it's too loud, people can't hear or focus on conversations. 

TV. Yes or no?

Unless the gathering is centred around a tv show, movie or sports games I would avoid turning on the tv. I find this is a quick party killer and people end up zoned out on the screen. 

Bathroom Etiquette

I love when people have a candle already lit in the bathroom. It makes it feel cozy and like they care about every room in their home. I keep a stick a palo santo and a lighter in a small glass above the toilet for people to light. Ensure there is ample soap, toilet paper, and a clean hand towel.

When guests arrive

 Greet them with enthusiasm and a hug (this is part of the touch sense and hugs are important, okay?). If you are enthusiastic to see someone, they will feel the same. Often we mirror other people's feelings, so be the feeling-guru and have everyone else mirror your excited and cheerful vibe. Show them where they can put their coats so they don't take up room in the common area. Offer a drink by telling them exactly what the options are. Offering homemade punch to start is always a welcomed sight. 

Be aware of the vibe

Once everyone has arrived, the tone of the gathering will be set. It may need some help by initiating conversations between people and topping up drinks (which always gets the conversation flowing). If it's feeling too sleepy, consider turning up the lights a little or changing the playlist to something more upbeat. Now just let it be and enjoy! I find the more I focus on enjoying myself, the more others enjoy themselves. Happiness is contagious, guys.

 

Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca

Recipe Notes:

bay leaf gin

Pour one cup of gin into a mason jar. Take 15 fresh bay leaves and rip in half. Place into jar of gin and seal. Leave for at least six hours. I left mine overnight. Remove bay leaves or strain if needed. 

Ice

Make extra ice ahead of time or buy a bag at the store. If you have a punch bowl, there are some pretty awesome ice rings you can make the day before like this one

Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca
Amaro Spritz Punch || A delicious Christmas punch perfect for the holidays! This batch cocktail is made with sparkling wine, aperol, amaro montenegro, orange juice and gin. Fresh and light! || creamandhoney.ca

Wishing you a happy holidays with lots of lovely food, family, friends and punch!

Meg

xx


AMARO SPRITZ PUNCH

the magic

inspiration:                     Aperol Spritz

the feels:                         fresh, light, slightly sweet + bitter    

eat with:                          cocktail snacks, antipasto, cheese ball

might like if you're into:      apertivos, digestivos, dance parties,                                                   fancy parties, san pellegrino aranciata,                                             negronis, aperol spritz, amaro, campari                                             + soda

the science

makes 12 cups (one large bowl or jug of punch) || time: 5 minutes

ingredients:

  • 1 cup aperol
  • 1 cup amaro montenegro
  • 1 cup gin (for bay infused gin, read the recipe notes above)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 4 cups cava (prosecco, champagne or sparkling wine)
  • 4 cups sparkling water
  • ice for serving
  • 2 oranges, sliced into wheels (optional)
  • handful of fresh bay leaves (optional)

method:

  1. Add aperol, amaro montenegro, gin, and orange juice to a jug or punch bowl. Just before serving, add cava and sparkling water. Stir to mix. Top with sliced oranges and bay leaves if desired. Add lots of ice to punch (the more the better because it will melt slower with more and keep the punch cold for longer. Or you can add ice to each glass as you serve it. 

Pour leftovers into a sealable bottle or jar and keep in the fridge for up to five days. It's delicious flat or you can brighten it back up with a splash of sparkling water or sparkling wine. 

Potato Cheddar + Onion Focaccia

Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca

Here we are in the third chapter of the Holiblogs (holiday blogs) with Olaiya from Milly's Kitchen. Originally I had a completely different idea for this post. But then– bread happened. Okay wait, first my period happened and then bread happened. Because I want one hundred slices of bread, then chocolate (and repeat for five days) during my period. And just like that, the universe demanded it from me. And when the universe (or your period, is it the same thing?) requests bread so intensely, you do not refuse. Olaiya has brought us a slow roasted pork this week, but more importantly some pertinent questions to ponder over the holidays regarding what truly feels good and what we do out of habit or obligation. If you are feeling stressed and running on autopilot, take five minutes and give it a full-attention read. In the same vein, I've got some more holiday party tips in this post that help you plan a menu with the goal of ease. Let's remove the stress around entertaining and bring it back to some good old fashioned fun and wearing lamp shades on our heads. 

This week I'm bringing you an easy-to-make potato cheddar focaccia. Bread is more than a food. To me, it's the most human of all foods because of the history, love and comfort that radiate from every loaf.  We share more than food with people when we “break bread"– we share time, an experience and thoughts or ideas. Someone's “bread and butter" is their livelihood or sustenance. “A crust of bread" has sustained countless people throughout human existence. There is nothing more I love than a warm slice bread with a pad of butter and sprinkle of salt. It never gets dull because it's simple in the most delicious way. Imagine a world without sandwiches, pizza, bagels, or cake. And what would we do without avocado toast?! I mean, I don't even want to think about it.

Bread is a perfect addition to any holiday feast, a snack between meals or a gift for a gathering. This is a no nonsense bread. It's uncomplicated and a success every time. You can change up the toppings with whatever you like. It's dairy free with removal of the cheese, bacon is always welcome or a simple herb/spice mixture on top will do fine. 

Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca

Holiday Party Tips (section three)

 

Planning The Menu

The most important thing about creating a menu is to plan ahead. This results in less stress, more time and energy to enjoy yourself with loved ones. I say less is more at a dinner party. Keep it simple and consider the following when planning your menu.

Will the menu be seasonal or is there a theme?

Are you going for your traditional holiday foods? Or from somewhere else? How about Swedish Christmas? Smorgasbords, baked goods with cardamom, glogg, meatballs, pickled herring and gravlax. Or if you're feeling those English vibes– yorkshire puddings, a turkey (or roast) + gravy, pigs in a blanket and a classic Christmas pudding for dessert. One year my family did a Seafood Christmas. We shucked oysters, seared scallops and shrimp with lots of sauces and fresh salads. It was a nice change from turkey dinner and took very little time to prepare. Plus we didn't end up in a turkey-potato-wine induced coma. A theme is a good place to start if you're feeling lost.

What is your budget?

This feels like a hinderance when I'm initially dreaming up my diamond crusted lobsters with caviar served in a shark's mouth (for effect!). But deciding on a budget can be fun because you have a chance to be creative within a limit. Many low cost dishes can be impressive without being labour intensive. You can opt for cheaper cuts of meat and stew them down for hours so they melt in your mouth. Add small amounts of high flavour ingredients like capers, bacon, infused oils, etc. Although these things can be a little more expensive, small amounts go a long way.

Are there any dietary restrictions of guests?

(More mentioned in section one of Holiday Party Tips). Making dietary adjustments to dishes can be easy and a good learning experience. Many dishes can easily become dairy free, gluten free, nut free etc.

Number of guests

This will help you decide what style of food to serve. Any more than four people and I opt with serve-yourself-style meals. Almost all the prep and cooking is done before the arrival of guests. Food can be dished on to plates in the kitchen if space is tight. More than six people and I like paper plates and platter style foods with simple drinks (wine/beer or punchbowl) opposed to making cocktails. All the food can be laid out before everyone arrives and at most heat up a dish or two when ready to eat. This cheeseball from the previous post is perfect for any size gathering and works as an appetizer or part of the spread.

What can be prepared before the gathering?

A good goal is to spread out the work so you don't become overwhelmed or too tired to enjoy yourself. Plan a meal where all the shopping is done at once, prepare a few dishes (or at least parts of them) before the day of the party. It is best to plan for dishes that are easy to cook or assemble the day of. Then you can focus on other things like cleaning up, adding decorations or picking a great playlist.

How many dishes to serve

This all depends on what kind of food you serve. If choosing platter foods you can have as many items as you like as they're served cold or at room temperature. Make sure the flavours match well as people will put a little of everything on their plates. If making a full dinner, I suggest one main and two sides. People always prefer a few delicious dishes, opposed to an array of mediocre ones. You can have small plates such as olives, pickles, bread or cheese to start. All can be arranged before guests arrives. Consider buying one element of the meal locally (eg. a dessert from the great bakery down the road) to save yourself some time and energy.

How to create contrast in meals

Contrast is key. Always consider your colours and textures throughout the meal planning. Most brown foods are delicious, but nothing looks more frumpy than a plate of soft beige and brown foods. Choose foods with an array of colours. Suggestions:

  • Add chopped green herbs or green onions to a bland coloured dish.

  • Slices or wheels of citrus can brighten a plate.

  • Radish in a salad makes for complimentary colours while also adding a crisp texture.

  • Top meats with a sauce for flavour and colour.

Texture + Flavour

Think about having a variety of textures like soft, crunchy, silky, chewy, crispy. You do not need them all, just avoid the same texture throughout all your dishes.

  • Refrain from using the same cooking method for each (eg. everything fried).

  • Avoid too many intensely flavoured dishes or it will overwhelm the palate.

  • Balance a heavy or spicy dish with a bright and light side. (eg. the reason a crisp vinegar slaw works with rich barbecue meats).

A few recipes to consider for your holiday meals

(all can be made the day before)

Blueberry Tarragon Gravlax– very easy and impresses guests. 

Stilton Pear Cheeseball with Pistachios + Pink Peppercorns– who doesn't love a cheese ball!?

Beet Pickled Eggs– ideal for a platter style feast or an appetizer. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Bread Pudding(dairy free)– one of the most delicious desserts I've made. If making in advance, reheat before serving for 10 minutes. Top with ice cream or whipped cream.

Ginger Hibiscus Switchel– this beverage is a beautiful bright red. Perfect for people who aren't drinking (or on a detox) but you can also add vodka to if you fancy a cocktail. 

Tangerine Olive Oil Cake– I've made this cake many times and it's always a hit. Also it's the easiest cake; one bowl, one whisk, and a few ingredients. It lasts for days and is great with coffee or wine. or both.

Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca
Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca

Recipe Notes:

On measuring flour

I highly recommend to use a kitchen scale when baking. Measuring by the cupful is inaccurate and will leave you with a lot more flour than needed which makes your baked goods dry and doughy. If you do not have a kitchen scale use the following method to measure flour and it will yield you better results. 

  1. Fluff up flour in bag/container with a spoon for a few seconds.
  2. Using the spoon, scoop flour by the spoonful into your measuring cup.
  3. Level the top of the measuring cup with a knife or finger. By using this method you end up with a more accurate amount of flour than by scooping directly from the bag since flour will pack itself tightly. This method adds air (an easy sifting method).

On proofing bread (letting it rise)

The yeast in bread will act quicker in warmth and slower in cold. If your dough doesn't rise, the problem is either that the yeast is inactive (here's how to test your yeast to know) or it is too cold. In the winter, I make my bread rise faster by placing my dough (covered) in the oven with ONLY the light on. The oven temperature is NOT on, only the light. This creates an ample of warmth for the bread to rise. In the summer if my apartment is very warm then this is not necessary. 

On machine mixing vs hand kneading

This dough recipe requires a stand mixer with dough hook, but it can be kneaded by hand if you don't have access to a mixer. Use this method instead:

Follow step one. Add flour, salt and thyme to a large bowl and whisk until evenly combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add yeast mixture and olive oil. Mix and bring together with a wooden spoon. Heavily flour a flat surface (it's a very wet sticky dough). Knead the dough using a folding action. Continue folding the edges into the centre of the dough for about 5 minutes until your dough in springy. Continue steps 3 and 4. 

Potato, Cheddar + Onion Focaccia || Simple + easy homemade bread that will impress your guests. Perfect for Christmas or the holidays and easily made dairy free without the cheese. || creamandhoney.ca

Hoping your week is full of holiday love!

Meg

xx


POTATO CHEDDAR + ONION FOCACCIA

the magic

inspiration:                       carb cravings

the feels:                           soft, chewy, crunchy

eat with:                            butter, olive oil and balsamic, cold                                                   meats, as a sandwich, dipped in soup,                                               fried eggs, salad, pasta, chili oil

might like if you're into:    carbs on your period, binging Netflix,                                                 lying to yourself by saying you'll have                                               just one slice, winter hibernation, The                                               Great British Bakeoff

the science

makes one large or two small focaccia (8 to 10 servings) || prep time: 40 mins to 2 hours bake time: 20 mins

ingredients:

dough

  • 375 g (2.5 cups) unbleached all purpose flour (see notes for measuring flour if you do not have a kitchen scale)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 + 1/4 cup (310 ml) warm water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (2 for dough and 1 for drizzling before baking)

toppings

  • 1 small (or half a large) russet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced (mandolin works best)
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (for potatoes)
  • 1 cup grated old cheddar cheese
  • 2 to 3 green onions, sliced in half lengthwise 
  • small handful of chives
  • flakey sea salt (Maldon)
  • few sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)

method:

  1. Add honey to warm water and whisk until combined. Pour yeast on top and mix. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes. The yeast should fully dissolve and bubble. 
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer add the flour, salt, and thyme. (If you do not have a stand mixer and want to knead by hand, see the recipe notes above). Whisk until evenly combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl. Pour yeast/water mixture and two tablespoon of olive oil. Attach dough hook to kitchen stand mixer, turn on low and let mix for five minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Dough is ready when it begins to climb dough hook and look evenly combined. This is a wet dough so it will be sticky and will not come together in a ball as other some doughs do. 
  3. Cover with tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise for thirty minutes up to two hours. The dough is ready when it has at least doubled in size. The longer (or warmer) the better. (read recipe notes above on how to speed up the rising process). While bread is proving, slice your potato and toss in 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. 
  4. Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Dump dough onto tray. spread out with fingers into one large rustic shape or separate dough and make into two or three smaller shapes. Sprinkle on half the cheddar cheese, lay on thin potato slices, and add the onions, chives, and thyme (if desired). Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on top of the bread. I brush a little more on the sides of the bread where there are no toppings. Bake for 20 minutes or until bread begins to start turning golden. Remove from oven, add second half of cheese, turn oven to broil and return bread to oven for about 3 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and bread looks crispier. Let cool for 3 minutes and add a sprinkle of flakey sea salt. Let fully cool. 

Recipe adapted from The Sugar Hit's Za'atar Flatbread

Pine Shortbread Cookies

Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca
Black Pine Needles || Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca

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:

  1. They're cookies. Duh.
  2. They're easy to make.
  3. They freeze well. Actually I prefer them directly from the freezer, they taste extra decadent. 
  4.  People will be all, “oooo pine?! How rustic and seasonal." and you'll be like, “pine is the new chocolate chip bitch.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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. 

Yew Tree || creamandhoney.ca
High Park in Fall , Toronto || Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca
Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca

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.

Eg.

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).

Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca
High Park in Fall, Toronto || Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca
Conifer/ Evergreen Foraging || Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca
High Park in Fall, Toronto ||Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca
High Park in Fall, Toronto || Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca

Gifts

  • 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. 
Black Pine Needles || Pine Shortbread Cookies || With only five ingredients, these classic shortbread biscuits with pine are a perfect winter dessert or Christmas gift. Simple to make and can be frozen for a snack when guests drop by over the holidays. || creamandhoney.ca

Happy party planning!

Meg                                                                                                                                                                                            xx


PINE SHORTBREAD COOKIES

the magic

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.

the science

makes approximately 25 to 30 cookies depending on size || time: 1 hour 15 mins (prep, rest + baking)

ingredients:

  • 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

method: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  4. 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.