12 Days of Christmas – Gingerbread House

Start with one side
Start with one side
A second pair of hands is helpful
A second pair of hands is helpful.
Don't worry about cracks, as long as the foundation is solid they can be fixed
Don’t worry about cracks, as long as the foundation is solid they can be fixed.
Decorate the roof with royal icing and your choice of candies
Decorate the roof with royal icing and your choice of candies
Roof is on fire (with spicy treats).
The roof, the roof is on fire (with spicy treats).
Don't forget the sides.
Don’t forget the sides.
Red door for good karma! Make sure you leave the lights on in the windows.
A red door for good karma. Make sure you leave the lights on in the windows.

Merry Christmas!

12 Days of Christmas – Mulled Wine

Whether you are nursing a flu, celebrating or need to escape, nothing can take you away like mulled wine.



Mulled Wine

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

5 cardamom pods

3 black peppercorns

4 whole cloves

1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cups water

1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine such as Côtes du Rhône

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

1 small orange, thinly sliced

1 small lemon, thinly sliced

6×4-inch piece of cheesecloth

kitchen string

Wrap cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and cloves in cheesecloth and tie with string. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 5-quart heavy pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then add spice bag, wine, vanilla bean, and fruit. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.

Yields 8 servings.

Courtesy of Epicurious.com

12 Days of Christmas – Honey

photo (80)Spotted, a Mayan calendar and . . . it ends tomorrow? Good thing Imperial Yucatán Honey sent me their unique Yucatán Dizidzilche (zee-zeel-chay) honey that is 100 percent raw, natural and certified organic, to enjoy now. It is also one of the rarest honeys in the world. In a handsome package, it comes with a handcrafted Mayan spoon.

There are just eight weeks in the year that the Dizidzilche bush produces its succulent, perfumed white flower. The honey comes from the forests of the lush Yucatan peninsula. There, honey production dates back to pre-Columbian times, when the Maya Empire first mastered apiculture (bee keeping).

Remarkably, the ancient Maya production process is still in practice today – handed down from generation to generation.

One of the best ways to enjoy and savor the aromatic flavor of Yucatán honey is in hot tea. My friend and author Stephanie Tourles created her version of a spicy, ginger-flavored lemonade. Morning Power Shot gives a boost of energy but it is also soothing for upset stomachs.

Morning Power Shot

1/2 cup hot water

juice of 1 medium lemon (1/4-1/2 cup)

2 tsp gingerroot, peeled, very finely minced

2 tsp raw honey

pinch of cayenne pepper

Heat the water to just shy of a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat.

Put the lemon juice, gingerroot, honey, and cayenne in a medium mug, and then pour in the hot water. Stir to blend and allow the mixture to steep for 4 to 5 minutes. The longer it steeps, the stronger and more potent the ginger becomes.

Drink quickly, ginger bits and all, when the juice blend is comfortably warm.

Yields: 1 serving

Raw Energy (Storey Publishing)

So as we brace for the end of the world (according to the Mayans) I’ll enjoy my steaming cup of tea with their raw honey.


City Girl Country

12 Days of Christmas – Appetizer

A version of smoked salmon bites with cream cheese
A version of smoked salmon bites with cream cheese

“You could make a meal out of these.”

Sometimes the best meals consist of tapas or appetizers and during the holidays, this is sometimes necessary (although I usually place a roast chicken in the middle of the table so guests can snack throughout the evening).

Offering the correct finger foods can make or break a party. You don’t want guests hungry especially if the drinks are flowing.

After spending some time in Ireland, I came back with a love for smoked salmon and my recipe for smoked salmon bites are always a crowd pleaser.

Smoked Salmon Bites

1 package of Scottish smoked salmon

1 loaf of brown bread

1 lemon cut into small wedges

1 stick of salted butter or 8 oz. of cream cheese

Fresh dill

Spread butter or cream cheese on all of the mini-slices of brown bread and place bits of the smoked salmon. Place the tiny lemon wedges onto the bits and sprinkle with dill. Plate and serve.

12 Days of Christmas – Decorating an Apartment

Having come of age in Manhattan, I learned that one does not need a lot of living space to be functional and happy. I saw families begin in two bedroom (or smaller) apartments, couples co-habitat in tiny one-bedrooms or even studios, and everyone got along quite well. Living in a cosmopolitan city the nuances of reaching social milestones sort of vanish – no one is really ever rushing to get to the suburbs or permanently to the countryside; there’s plenty to keep one occupied and out of the house. However, it’s still important to make a house a home. The house may be just an apartment, but it’s a space to call one’s own. Mine certainly isn’t flawless and matching (momentos from travels, lots of books and a small art space seem to give it a sense of quirkiness). Here’s how I decorated my house this holiday season:

Petite traditional tree
Petite traditional tree
Village and a manger
Village and a manger
The retro white tree with color scheme
The retro white tree with color scheme

12 Days of Christmas – Brunch

Bloody Mary at Trattoria Aroma
Bloody Mary at Trattoria Aroma

If your family is anything like mine, eating and drinking is a big part of the holidays. On both Christmas Eve and Day the table is full of food and the bar is stocked. Whether it’s the Feast of Seven Fishes or baked eggs, it’s important to have appropriate drink options to accompany the dishes. Personally, Christmas morning is my favorite, sitting among the opened gifts and discarded crumpled up paper, it’s comforting to be eating (yet again) with a cocktail in hand post the climax of the holiday.

Try this favorite brunch drink on December 25, and let me know what you think

Shelly’s Bloody Mary

Shot/jigger or a four-count pour of vodka (Belvedere recommended)

Clamato juice

Organic celery stalk

2 ice cubes

1 slice of lemon, lime or both

Salt and pepper

Sprig of fresh dill

Hot sauce

Pour the vodka over a glass of ice, add the Clamato juice and stir. Sprinkle in the dill and add the citrus on a tooth pick. Splash in the hot sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the celery.

12 Days of Christmas – Don’t forget the pets


If your family is anything like mine, the member who gives the most unconditional love and many hours of enjoyment (and sometimes frustration) is not forgotten during the holidays. This year, our 11-year old Black Lab mix Max has many treats awaiting him under the tree and in Santa’s workshop: Candy cane raw hides, an embroidered collar from LL Bean and a new plush, squeaky football toy are all well and good, but what about a healthy, homemade and tasty treat that also freshens breath? This Christmas morning, as the humans enjoy brunch and Mimosas, the dogs can munch on “Maximilian Treats”.

Maximilian Treats

¼ lb. ground beef

Dash of flour

1/3 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley (cleaned)

1-sprig fresh mint (cleaned)

1 tsp. shredded Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and then roll the mixture out flat. Cut with favorite canine shaper cookie cutter. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool. Good for two-day servings, about ½ dozen. Freeze any leftovers.

This recipe also appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Edible Buffalo.

Jammie Dodgers – Biscuit & Jam Cookies

12 Days of Christmas – this is what I should have done for my cookie exchange

Eat My Shortbread

As an avid Doctor Who fan and obvious cookie lover, I couldn’t simply let a million references to Jammie Dodgers pass by me without thinking these are probably really delicious, and I probably need to make them.  Sure, I could have just ordered a pack of the real thing off of Amazon (PS, I probably still will), but they didn’t seem too tough to make on my own– and they weren’t!  I just found a few recipes I liked online and combined my favorite things about each.

You will need:

2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp cold butter, cut in cubes
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
Raspberry Jam (this is what is traditionally used, but I actually used strawberry :))

This recipe makes about 12-14 cookie sandwiches, so double it if you want more!


Start off by combining your…

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12 Days of Christmas – Donut Holes

Eat My Shortbread

I really love the “holiday season.”  Like, really.  I could look at houses lit up for hours and I wish I could keep my Christmas tree up all year long.  December is such an awesome month for me to bake a million things and celebrate literally everything.  For the last decade, I’ve also been fortunate enough to become part of my best friend’s family, and celebrate Chanukah with them each year– double the family love and celebration!

My beautiful friend Rachel (no blog for me to link, but she is an incredible copywriter for Zumba Headquarters :)) always knows how to put together an amazing Chanukah dinner, complete with matzoh ball soup from scratch and home made latkes, but the real star of the evening, and what I know I am always looking forward to, is her perfect little donut holes for dessert.  They couldn’t possibly be any easier or…

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