House Dressing

I went to the College of William and Mary. And in Colonial (er…Revolutionary?) Williamsburg, there is a magical place called The Cheese Shop.

Among students, The Cheese Shop was famous for one thing: its sandwiches, slathered with house dressing. Most of us sampled it for the first time during freshman orientation, when our guides instructed us to dip some old crusty French bread ends, which can’t be made into sandwiches, into this dip and try it. I remember thinking, “Ugh, what is this stuff?” at first taste, but somehow by the second bite I was hooked.

If you went to William and Mary, you probably know what I’m talking about.

I ate house dressing on many things, from celery to salmon. And even though I now live 3 hours away, I have found a passable recipe that resembles the Dijonnaise I grew to love so dearly. Every time I make it, I am filled with nostalgia and…well, calories.

I think you should try this dip. Bring it to your friends for New Years with some crusty bread or vegetables. Put it on your burgers. Eat it with your hot wings. Don’t think about the fat content. Just do it.

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Chipotle Sweet Potato Chili

So I haven’t posted in a week…but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! In fact, it’s been kind of a frenzy of kitchen activity over here, between meals with visiting relatives (over 20 in all!) and Christmas dinner…lots of spicy, herb-y yumminess going on.

I wish I hadn’t missed the chance to share about our awesome Christmas dinner with you, but at least now we can prepare for a New Year’s extravaganza! I’m talking about awesome dips, chili, and…well maybe you have had enough of cookies for the time being 🙂

This spicy crockpot chili is a perfect dish to celebrate New Years with. Why? It’s quick and flavorful, it’s hearty but healthy, and it will complement the plethora of appetizers usually appearing around this time of year, from pimento dips to fresh salsa. The best part? Because this chili is made in the crockpot, it only takes about 10 minutes of effort at the beginning of the day, leaving you free to hang out with friends and relatives, or deal with whatever other dishes you have planned.

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Portabella Burgers

So. It’s the week before Christmas. You are probably busy cleaning your house for the relatives coming into town, running back and forth from Target, and wrapping so many presents that you have little tooth-shaped scars on your index finger from the tape dispenser.

Or maybe that’s just me.

What you really need right now is a quick and delicious meal that won’t interrupt your flow. Something filling but not heavy. Something you could make using only one pan, and be ready to go in about 10 minutes.

What you need is portabella burgers.

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Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels and Cookie Parties

So our annual cookie party was last week! I baked and I baked and then I baked some more. I think I made more than 30 dozen cookies in total. And then I decorated. And thankfully my sister-in-law had mercy on me and came and helped me decorate.

The key to keeping yourself sane when you’re hosting a party is making lists. I started with a list of the cookies and sweets I wanted to make this year, then I put them in order of least to most time-consuming to help me decide what order to make them in:

magic cookie bars
minty fudge
chocolate chip cinnamon cookies
pepper cookies
red velvet cookies
chocolate peppermint pinwheels
Russian teacakes
pumpkin spice truffles
candy cane cookies

Once I figured out what cookies I wanted to make, I also made a list for decorating. After all, what’s a Christmas party without decorations? I decided on an ornament theme, so I got hung little snowflake ornaments all over the house, filled a vase with ornaments for the cookie table centerpiece, decorated my fridge with ornaments cut out of wrapping paper (because we didn’t have a tree yet…), and made name tags for all the cookies in the shape of ornaments. (Thank you, Kelly, for your mad ornament-cutting skills!)

I got started about a week ahead of time and vowed to cross at least two things off my list each day, be it baking or decorating. My goal was to have everything made by the day before the party so that I could spend the day of cleaning the house for guests. And I almost made it—though I must admit I was frosting gingerbread cookies about half an hour before everyone started to arrive!

Over all, having the lists to rely on was amazing. Nothing slipped through the cracks, and I was still excited to be having the party as I was laying out the table just before our guests arrived. My main failing was in being indecisive about decorations (yeah, that list changed several times during the process), which meant that I spent several days buying and exchanging ribbons and twinkle lights, etc., before I could cross “buy decorations” off my list. But all in all, I would say that if you intend to host a Christmas party, you should make about a thousand lists and plot out a timeline for how to accomplish everything before the big day.

Now. Let’s make some cookies! My husband said these pinwheel cookies were his favorite, and while I still haven’t figured out how to get the chocolate not to crack during baking, they are pretty darn delicious!

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Cookie Cutter Giveaway

It’s Christmas. The season of giving! And in honor of that, I want to give you a cute set of cookie cutters.

Maybe you enjoy the task of rolling out sugar cookies and stamping elves and angels into them. Maybe you can work wonders with a set of nesting cookie cutters. I am thinking linzer cookies. I am thinking cookie decorating shindigs with adults and with small children and lots of sticky, colored frostings and sugar sprinkles. I am thinking you are going to work some cookie cutter magic, here.

So how can you get your hands on cookie magic, you wonder? Simple. Answer a question that is near and dear to my heart: what is your favorite Christmas/holiday cookie, and why?

You have until Sunday, December 11 at midnight to comment. I will read the answers and select my favorite (ahem…I like charming baking stories). And because, as I suspected, a grand total of two people took me up on my cookie cutter offer, both Stephanie and SmartyHarley are winners!

In the meantime, I will tell you about my favorite (and least favorite) Christmas cookie: candy canes.

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Russian Teacakes

Let’s be honest. It is a little exhausting to make a dozen different kinds of cookies/candies for one big event. My best friend reminded me that I said the same thing last year in the days leading up to our cookie party…but apparently I forgot. At least it’s a delicious way to wear myself out!

So rather than tell you some engaging story about how much I love Russian teacakes (or perhaps you know them as Mexican wedding cakes…), I am just going to assume you love nutty little balls of cookie covered in confectioner’s sugar, and that you desire nothing more than for your kitchen to be covered in a fine film of powdery sweetness, and just give you this recipe! Make the cookies. You will like them.

Without further ado…

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Magic Cookie Bars

So. Now is a good time to tell you that I am a fan of cookies.

Maybe you already knew that.

You might also be able to guess that Christmas is one of my favorite seasons (for so many reasons!), in large part because cookies have a huge showing this time of year. At my house especially.

When I was growing up, my mom went all out with Christmas cookies. Every year, she would make about 8 different kinds of cookies, and man, those cookies were so good that she gave them away as gifts to our extended family. If she didn’t have time to make someone’s favorite cookie that year, they would come back with their bags or tins and say, “Hey, where is [insert cookie here]? I’ve been looking forward to that all year!”

What a legacy to live up to.

So when I finally moved away from home, I knew that Christmas would just not be Christmas without doing it up cookie style. I baked and baked and then packed up my cookies and gave them to my coworkers and my Bible study. I did not share the leftovers with my roommates. I gained 5 pounds. Oops.

Then I had a revelation…what if I made even MORE cookies and invited as many people as I thought would fit into my home to come and eat cookies with me!? Brilliant. Thus was born the annual Christmas cookie party.

Preparations for this year’s cookie party are in full swing. This year I have set my sights high on making 12 different types of treats (waistlines, beware). For the past 3 days I have been baking and freezing and doing about a zillion dishes. I will share the details of the cookie party with you soon, including tips for planning your own Christmas party without going insane.

But today I am going to share the easiest holiday treat in the whole world with you: magic cookie bars. Some folks call these 7-layer bars, but whatever name you know them by, they are flavorful and awesome, and you really have no excuse not to try making them. I mean seriously, you don’t even really have to stir anything. It’s a relief.

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