Time to get ready for the holidays! Would it help to talk preparation, snacking (easy cheese Danish) and gift giving?
Are you as surprised as I am to be hearing Christmas music? While my gut reaction was, “Gee it’s early,” I quickly realized something important.
If I start preparing now, I might just be ready for the holidays… with time left to enjoy myself!
One of my best Christmases ever was on a year where I was ready early. That fall, I moved to a new job, where a friend had one caution—in IT financial services, end of year was killer busy.
Her advice? Have your house decorated and buy your gifts by the end of black Friday. After that, just work and have fun. And despite prodigious overtime, it WAS one of our best holidays!
Gift Giving Prep
Yes, being prepared is so important that I even buy things like candles, tea towels and special foods to have on hand. Then when someone drops by unexpectedly with a gift, or my daughter announces she needs a gift for her band teacher (today), or I realize a dinner host doesn’t drink, there is no need for a desperate, last minute trip to the store
It even works for bigger surprises. If your BFF brings you a gift–even though you said no gifts, you can pull together a “basket” that includes, hmm, McCrea’s Caramels and Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Sugar, like in a package I just received.
Yes, I was really excited to get a beautiful package from Nielsen-Massey (the well-known maker of killer-good vanilla & other premium flavorings) and McCrea’s Candies (an award-winning candy maker with the goal of making the world’s best caramel-mmm!). The box came with two flavors of premium caramel, vanilla decorating sugar and coffee extract which are all perfect for giving.
Except that it’s so good I’m keeping it for myself :-). And there is one available to a lucky reader in the giveaway below!
The caramels are all natural (no corn syrup) and I broke into them before I even did the blog photo (can you tell I retaped the container?). They are rich and delicious, which I think is key around the holidays—you are satisfied before you gain six pounds. I loved working with the coffee extract in a Coffee Chocolate Chip Angel Food Cake recently, and baking wouldn’t be the same without decorating sugar (including the recipe below). And decorating sugar is even better with the great vanilla flavoring (you can layer your flavors!)!
So, as you prepare for the holidays, keep in mind the following… How many people do you need to thank? How many parties will you attend? Will you want to reciprocate any surprise gifts? Do you want to incorporate specialty food products into your regular giving?
And… perhaps you want to gift yourself?
Easy Cheese Danish
In keeping with the idea of holiday fun, I tried out some easy cheese Danish, topped with pears and vanilla sugar. They come together quickly, using frozen puff pasty and mascarpone and my husband suggested I have them every day when he gets home from work. Even if the cheese filling spilled out sometimes, they were always delicious and I’m going to serve them to guests over Thanksgiving.
While relaxing (did I mention they were easy?).
And now for the giveaway…
It’s for a box like the one above (a $62 value) and is sponsored by Nielsen-Massey and McCrea’s. The giveaway is open to mailing addresses in the US and ends at midnight CST on November 19. To enter, leave a comment below telling me what your biggest gift giving challenge is. For a second entry, subscribe to my new blog (A Year of Eating Locally) and leave a second comment on this post telling me you did (or that you are already a subscriber). The winner will be picked randomly, contacted by email and have 24 hours to get back to me with mailing information or a new winner will be chosen.
- 1 egg, beaten & divided
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 sheet of puff pastry (1/2 box)
- 1 pear (or other sliceable fruit like peach or apple)
- coarse sugar (like Nielsen-Massy vanilla sugar)
- Beat egg and remove about a tablespoon to a separate small bowl (to use later for egg wash).
- Pour remaining egg, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla into mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer until well-blended.
- Cut the puff pastry sheet into 6 sections (each will be around 4 x 5 inches). Roll each section of pastry sheet on wax paper to approximately 5 x 5 inches.
- Make a shallow cut (score) about a half inch from the edges of the tart. Prick the inside with a fork or knife (see picture above).
- Spread the inside section with a heaping spoon of the cheese mixture. Top with two thin slices of pear (or other fruit).
- Mix the reserved egg with a teaspoon of milk or water to make an egg wash. Brush the tart edges with egg wash and sprinkle decorating sugar.
- Using a thin spatula, transfer to a lightly sprayed or parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 400 F for approximately 15 minutes, until golden.
- Let cool slightly or completely before serving.
- Maple Pumpkin Creme Brulee (no torch needed)
- Festive Holiday Chopped Salad