For the past few years, I've hosted the Christmas party for 4 of my girlfriends and their guys. Like last year, we did cocktails and dessert (without any kids) and I had a great time. Things are changing with our group (bff is moving, twins are being born, busy schedules) so we're not getting together weekly like we used to, but the party this past weekend was a fun reminder of how special it is to have a group of close girl friends who know each other well. Thanks for a fun evening girls!
Whether or not you're hosting a party this Christmas season, here are a few new ideas to try out:
First up, a holiday cocktail: Cranberry Ginger Rum Martinis
I made a mason jar of this and it was decided that next time, it should be a pitcher (there were 10 of us so it didn't go very far).
1) In a jar (or pitcher), thinly slice some fresh ginger (I did about 4 long peels). Add 1.25 cups of rum. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to crush the ginger and release juices.
2) Stir in 4 cups of cold cranberry juice.
3) Refrigerate overnight so that the ginger has time to flavor the mixture. Shake in a martini shaker with ice to make it really cold. Serve in martini glasses with a sugar rim (dip rims of martini glasses in water and then in sugar). Yields 8 drinks
Next, a new cookie: Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles (recipe from sugar, eggs and love)
This recipe yields about 2 dozen but I made a double batch. At first, I wasn't as excited about them as I thought I would be but they really grew on me and I liked them even better the next day. They are reminiscent of chocolate crinkles, a Christmas cookie staple in my family, but with cinnamon and a little kick from the cayenne. Be careful when adding the cayenne . . . for some reason, the bottle I have is super hot (even for our tastes) and I know better than to add the full amount to anything. 1/8 tsp was perfect for me. I burned the first batch so pull them out a little earlier than you think you should.
For the cookies:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 T half and half (or almond milk for vegan cookies)
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (my jar is super hot so I only used 1/8 tsp)
For the topping:
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper. Mix the topping ingredients together in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, use a whisk to vigorously mix together the oil, sugar, syrup, half and half, and vanilla extract. Use a mixer to mix as you sift in the remaining ingredients. Once all ingredients are incorporated, mix until you have a pliable dough.
Roll dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll them in the cinnamon sugar topping mixture. Transfer to baking sheet and flatten slightly. Place them on baking sheet at least two inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes until the top is a little crackly but not 100% dry. Remove and let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Finally, a dessert that will accommodate a lot of dietary restrictions: Pumpkin Custards
My mom made these for us a little while ago and I was hooked. They are gluten free, vegan, and contain no refined sugar. But, they're really tasty and satisfying as a dessert.
The white spots are from the coconut milk and it has a good pumpkin pie flavor - neither the maple syrup or coconut milk are very noticeable flavors in the final product so don't be put off by those ingredients. I served it with whipped cream.
Pumpkin Custards (from Living Without magazine) - serves 6
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (not lite)
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 T arrowroot (powder - can buy it in bulk in the spice section of Sprouts)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil 6 ramekins. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and maple syrup. In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, stirring constantly.
Pour batter into prepared ramekins, about 3/4 cup per serving. Place ramekins in a 9x13 pan and add enough warm water until it reaches half way up the outsides of the ramekins. Carefully place baking dish in preheated oven and bake about 45 minutes, until custard is no longer jiggly and has lightly browned tops. Cool on wire racks. You can make them ahead and refrigerate until you want to serve them (probably for a couple days if you tightly cover them) or serve them warm. (230 cal/ramekin)