Christmas is truly my favorite time of year. I love the warmth of this season–which may sound strange given the outside temperature–but it’s a warmth of giving, of goodness, and light, that ignites in me as soon as we pack up the Thanksgiving leftovers (who am I kidding–I start getting giddy after Halloween). As I looked back at #12DaysofChristmas last year, I noticed I didn’t have a roundup of all of the 2016 best Christmas recipes in one spot, aka 11 Best Christmas Recipes. Here they are below for your gifting/eating/drinking pleasure. Stay tuned next week for 2017’s 12 Days of Christmas Recipes (culminating in another awesome giveaway), but in the meantime, enjoy these 11 fantastic holiday recipes!
This soup is sumptuously rich, and perfect for a light holiday main meal, paired with a lovely salad. Or do as we do, and wow your guests with this as the first of many courses.
This is a recipe that my mother saved from the August 1991 issue of Metropolitan Home magazine. They are spicy and slightly sweet, very different from sugary glazed pecans (which are delicious, as well). These are so easy to whip up and last for over a week, so they’re a great do-ahead option. Just be sure to watch them as they roast; nuts are notoriously quick to burn. Keep a bowl of them by the tree for snacking while gift wrapping. You can thank me later.
Hot Apple Toddy
This version is a cross between mulled cider and a hot toddy. To start, heat apple cider in a saucepan, and add a cinnamon stick or some ground cinnamon and allspice. If you have a cold or a sore throat, add lemon and honey; if not, add an orange slice and a squeeze of its juice. Off the heat, add a healthy dollop of whiskey, rum or brandy and garnish with a slice of fruit.
Lemon curd is essentially a more intensely lemon custard, due to the higher proportions of lemon juice. It’s delicious on scones, baguettes, in tarts, as a pie filling, over vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or just eaten off a spoon.
The bracing mint paired with the deep, bittersweet chocolate is a winning combination. Along with the sea salt caramels, I make these every year, and only at Christmas. Basically, you whip up a peppermint fondant, shape it into rounds, and dip them in chocolate. Alternatively, you can also roll the fondant into balls like truffles.
Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
Gooey, soft, sweet, buttery caramel, dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with tiny grains of sea salt. I’ve never been much into making candy (I’m pretty sure it’s because of the time I burned myself with sugar syrup in high school cooking class), but as long as you pay attention during the last stage, you don’t even need a candy thermometer for these (or the peppermint patties above!)
Grapefruit Syrup (for a Champagne Cocktail)
It’s as easy as peeling a grapefruit, squeezing the juice, and letting it sit overnight with some sugar. The next day, strain it and then top a few tablespoons with some sparkling wine for a lovely Champagne cocktail. Alternatively, top four tablespoons of grapefruit syrup with sparkling water for a refreshing and kid-friendly Italian soda.
Dark Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread
This easy-as-all-get-out bar cookie has a tender, buttery, classic shortbread base under a bittersweet chocolate layer and is sprinkled with shards of candy canes. Yes, please. The original recipe has a finish of melted white chocolate, but I omitted it to let the bittersweet chocolate shine in all its chocolatey glory.
Thai Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup
While I hope you don’t fall ill this holiday season, know you’re now armed with the sinus-clearing, age-old remedy of chicken soup, this time with a kick. Know a friend who has succumbed? Bring them a thermos of this. You’ll be on the nice list, I promise.
DIY Sour Mix (for cocktails)
When you hear “sour mix,” you think of a Dayglo green liquid, right? Also known as Margarita mix, this overly sweet and sour concoction needs no place in your cocktail repertoire. If you have water, sugar, lemons and limes, you can whip up a batch of sour mix yourself without all of those preservatives and ingredients we can’t pronounce.
Meyer Lemon Snowball Cookies
I was first introduced to these cookies by a friend’s mom, who made the most beautiful holiday cookie assortments to give as gifts. She made a more traditional version, but I’ll never forget the taste of those buttery, slightly crumbly, shortbread treats. These are slightly lighter, with a bright pop of Meyer lemon.