Amy’s Christmas Punch

A pitcher of Amy's Christmas Punch with cranberreis and orange slices Punch of Cheer
When we got married, we were given a punch bowl as a gift. I loved it. My husband was less enthusiastic. I get it. Your average twenty-something dude does not get excited about a punch bowl that he predicted would take up room in our garage and rarely get used. It pains me to admit he was spot-on with that prediction.

In general, I am pro punch, usually while sitting pool/beachside and with the appropriate tiny umbrella in it but, I also like a good boozy punch for cocktail parties. A big bowl of punch where guests can serve themselves, so you don’t have to play bartender, is a pro move. If I am being honest though, the only time I have enough people in my house to make a punch like that is during the holidays. Even then it’s not always enough people to justify it. Hence the dusty punch bowl in the garage…

That changes this year. This is the year of the return of the punch bowl. It’s the appropriate time for a few reasons. One, the kids are old enough that if they happen to sneak into the punch, I’m not going to freak out about it. Two, I am almost fifty and I’ve decided to do it because I wanna…life is short, live your life and drink the punch.

Amy’s Christmas Punch Recipe
Adapted from Sugar and Soul
Yields 8 Cups Read more…

Amy’s Fall Pear Salad

Photo of Amy’s Fall Pear Salad on a white plateThe other fall fruit
When you think about the Fall season, a lot of things immediately come to mind—fallen leaves, Halloween, pumpkin spice, and, of course, apples. Apple cider, caramel apples, apple cider donuts…you get the picture. There are some people out there that picture something different. Something that is quintessentially Fall, yet is overshadowed by the mainstream. I give you the pear

I admit that I am most likely to reach for an apple than a pear but don’t take that to mean I don’t like them. My daughter is a pear fanatic. We are lucky enough that there is a pear farm only a few miles from where we live and my daughter waits impatiently every year for those pears to be at their peak. I admit they are ridiculously good. My daughter likes to put the pears in her lunch and eat them straight. I prefer to eat them in something sweet or, more often than not, with cheese.

There is something about the delicate flavor of pears that matches so well with cheese especially a strong cheese like a blue cheese or gorgonzola. Something about that pair (yes, pun intended), to me, is the epitome of fall flavor. While I am a big fan of a 4 o’clock cheese plate complete with pears, whatever cheese I have on hand, some nuts, and a drizzle of honey—my go-to vessel for pear consumption is a lightly dressed salad of crunchy butter lettuce or, again, whatever I have on hand. Arugula also works well…or a mix.

There are endless combinations for pears in salads. Nine times out of ten, my salad will have pears, blue cheese, pecans, and pomegranate seeds finished off with a Dijon vinaigrette. Sometimes I add citrus instead of the pomegranate seeds. Sometimes I add thinly sliced red onion. Sometimes I swap the pecans for hazelnuts. A handful of dried cranberries is a tasty addition as well…

Below is my basic fall pear salad recipe. Play with it as you see fit.

Amy’s Fall Pear Salad
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Apple and Honey Board

Photo of an Apple and Honey BoardBoard of Celebration
Yesterday I woke up and realized that we are basically halfway through September. And, I am not entirely sure how that happened. I do know that I have weather whiplash. Last week the pavement was melting and this week I need a sweater. I guess that means it’s fall now?

This weather has also got me craving fall foods. I consumed some pumpkin spice baked goods the other day without guilt since the temp outside was in the 70s. (My rule is no pumpkin spice when it’s 80 or above—no matter how much I love the flavor. Just on principle.) I also found myself eyeing the crockpot for something slow-cooked and hearty like a pot roast. That line of thought took me on a roasted meat journey that got me to a lovely brisket with plenty of “melted” onions. Then the brisket reminded me that Rosh Hashanah is coming up at the end of the month.

Full disclosure, I am not Jewish. But, I have a deep and consuming love for what most people consider to be Jewish food. My mother-in-law IS Jewish AND from New York. So, after 20-plus years in the family, I believe I know my way around a good bagel among other favorites. Even though we may not celebrate the Jewish holidays in our family, I do like to at least acknowledge the history and culture if only so my kids have some connection to their past. (I mean fair is fair. They must endure all things Viking from my Scandinavian family.)

Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday the 25th which is perfect as I tend to do what I call a “big dinner” on Sundays. This generally means that whatever we are having takes more than an hour to make. It’s an homage to the Sunday dinners we had at my grandmother’s growing up. Not sure what the main dish will be this year but I do know I will start things off with an Apples and Honey board.

The reasons are two-fold. One, the fall apples are starting to show up in the market and they are all crunchy goodness. (I’m looking at you Honeycrisp.) Second, I’ve kind of become a cheese board-obsessed maniac…so any excuse is a good excuse. And, since apples and honey are part of the tradition it’s a no-brainer…

There is no actual recipe for making an Apple and Honey Board. Just use your imagination. However, if you are doing one for Rosh Hashana remember no meats. And, since circles and rounds have significance for the holiday, try to incorporate them as much as possible. You can use cheese rounds like brie and round crackers. Or consider making this recipe for a classic cheeseball. Read more…

Blueberry Mojito Popsicles

Photo of Blueberry Mojito Popsicles against a dark backgroundCocktail On A Stick
I am not a big popsicle fan. I mean, I like them. I will eat them. But, I won’t seek them out the way the rest of my family does. However, there are some days in the summer when a popsicle hits just right. And, sometimes those popsicles are more than what they seem.

I like my drinks cold—arctic cold. Water, coffee, sodas, no matter what it is, if I am drinking it, there is a lot of ice. So, it makes sense that when I came across the cocktail popsicle, it was love at first sight.

The downside is that they don’t pack the same punch as a regular cocktail—mainly because you have to dial the booze back a bit to get them to freeze. Bonus, you can enjoy more than one without getting too sloppy!

There are a number of good possibilities out there. I like this recipe for Blueberry Mojito Popsicles ‘cause it’s pretty. But, an easy vodka lemonade is always a good idea. Play around with it a bit. A good rule of thumb is a 1:5 ratio of alcohol to juice, puree, or whatever mixture you’re using. Read more…