Month: December 2011

Present Christmas

When I was 6 years old, my grandparents got divorced. My grandma moved away and cut off communication with my dad (her son) and in turn, the grandkids. Four years later, my grandpa started dating a woman named, Marilyn. A widower and French teacher, originally from Vermont, she brought peanut butter popcorn, scavenger hunts and a vivacious laugh to our lives.

For the past 20 years, my siblings and I have had a grandpa and a Marilyn. While Christmas presents don’t matter as much the older you get, I always find myself waiting eagerly for the box that Marilyn sends. What’s inside the wrapping paper and boxes are not mere objects, but a representation that she cares about us, thinks about us, and knows who we are.

A few years ago at Thanksgiving, I briefly mentioned that I was interested in learning how to make Springerle cookies, because my great-grandfather used to make them every year. Come Christmas, a package arrived, and Marilyn had found me a Springerle rolling pin.

Last night, a package arrived on the doorstep. I opened the box from Marilyn to find a stunning vintage metal cake stand she found in an antique shop. It’s not about the perfect present, but the fact that someone knows you well enough to see something and think of you.

If you don’t have a grandma, I highly suggested getting yourself a Marilyn.



Wine Notes

There is chaos in my wine fridge. I am susceptible to wine shops and in turn, new bottles that I feel I must taste. Add on top of that the few wine clubs I belong to plus holiday gifts, and the problem then arises in a jumble of bottles. Where did I get this one? How long did the wine shopkeeper or winemaker tell me to store before drinking? Was I saving this one or that one, for a special occasion?

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Thus, my fabulous new method of keeping notes on my bottles. A $5 box of shipping tags. They are perfect for attaching notes to your bottles, like where you got the wine, when you got it, how long to hold it, and if you want to make sure no one touches a particular bottle. Then once you drink a bottle, jot a note on the other side of the tag, to be entered later into your wine app or wine notes.

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The tags I use are Avery Shipping Tags (11004) with reinforced hole, 2 ¾” x 1 3/8” and there are 100 tags in a box. May your wine fridge be as organized as mine is now.

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Christmas Cookie Exchange

I feel like Christmas cookies fall into the category of spaghetti sauce or stuffing at Thanksgiving…your mom (or grandma) makes the best, no contest. We all grew up eating specific cookies, that if they weren’t there, it just wouldn’t be Christmas. I love those cookies and the stories that go with them. One of the best Christmas presents I ever received were a batch of cookies and the recipe from my friend Jenn. When I saw the Great Food Blogger Cookie Exchange, I knew I wanted to be apart of the cookie love, share some recipes and stories.

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The last couple years, my mom and I have been tweaking old recipes (my one grandma only ever used Crisco in cookies…YUCK!) and adding some new favorites to our cookie plate. My latest addition are these cookies, that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. A combination of two of my favorite flavors, pistachio and marmalade. The cookie is a buttery shortbread-esque cookie, cut like a linzer cookie and filled with a sweet, yet slightly bitter, clementine marmalade.

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Pistachio Shortbread with Clementine Marmalade

Rachel Ellrich Miller


    Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

1 # Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
1 1/4 cups Granulated Sugar
1/4 tsp. Almond Extract
2 each Eggs
3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups Pistachios, Ground
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Fine Sea Salt

    Clementine Marmalade

20 each Clementines
1 each Lemon
6 cups Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 cups Water


    Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

With a food processor, pulse pistachios until they are finely ground, but still have some small chunks. Add them to a bowl with flour, baking powder and sea salt. Whisk all the dry together, so that they are combined.

In your mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Slightly beat the two eggs and add the almond extract to them. Add them to your butter and sugar mixture, till fully combined.

On a low speed, add flour mixture slowly until fully combined. Place in 4 small plastic ziplock bags and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Once the dough is chilled, roll out on a lightly floured surface, to a little under 1/4" thick. Using your cutters, cut tops and bottoms, and if you want to do the linzer look, cut a smaller window in one of the halves of the cookies. I roll the dough one time, straight from the fridge, and then collect the scraps, chill them and then re-roll them once more. Anything after that can either be baked and eaten as scraps or thrown out. Re-rolling dough multiple times builds the gluten and make your cookies tough, so try to only do it once and then enjoy some delicious cookie scraps.

Chill each tray of cut cookies in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and then bake for 4 more minutes (Please, keep an eye on the first pan that you bake. Every oven is very different and baking times will vary. You want to bake till they are just getting a little brown on the bottom.)

Cool your cookies on racks. Assemble with clementine (or any marmalade of your choice). I use 2 teaspoons of marmalade to fill each cookie. Store in an airtight container for up to a week (mine don't last very long, so I honestly don't know if they will last longer than a week ;o) ).

    Clementine Marmalade

Halve and then thinly slice clementines and lemon. Place in a large pot with sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and allow sugar to fully dissolve. Remove from heat and cool. Place in a covered container and leave at room temperature for 8 hours (or over night).

The next day, place the mixture in a large pot and bring back up to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about an hour, stirring constantly. Most jam or marmalade recipes call for you to bring it to 220 degrees. You can most definitely use this method, but I use a different test to know if my jam/marmalade is done. Place a couple plates in the freezer at the beginning of the process. When the marmalade has thickened, the fruit has turned translucent, and you feel it is done, take a spoonful and place it on the plate in the freezer. Leave it in the freezer for 1 minute. Take the plate out and look at the marmalade. It should not run down the plate if you tilt it. You should be able to run your finger through it and have it stay (similar to a la nappe when making creme anglaise). Typically it will also form a little skin on top and wrinkle when you run your finger through it. This is when it is done.

Allow the marmalade to cool slightly and then in batches, pulse it in your food processor. I do this, so that when biting into the cookie, you get a little bit of the gooey marmalade and a little bit of the peel. I hate to bite into the cookie and have a huge strand of peel slop out.

At this point, you are able to can the marmalade (please follow canning procedures of boiling the sealed jars - if you need more information on this, please let me know) or if you are using it all for cookies, place the marmalade in a coverable container and allow to cool. Store in the fridge once it has cooled. (I also like to place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top to prevent a skin from forming on the top, before I put the container lid on.) When you are ready to fill your cookies, take marmalade out about 20 minutes before to take the chill off and make it easier to spread.


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Through this process, I’ve had three boxes of delicious cookies and some amazing notes reach my doorstep or inbox. Kristina from Atlanta, GA, sent soft cake-like sour cream cookies. Missy from Portland, OR, sent me some Oregon Hazelnut Thumbprints filled with Raspberry Jam. Kate from Menifee, CA, sent sugar cookies in memory of her mother and their first Christmas without her.

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Enjoy these cookies, and please have a safe holiday!

Cinnamon Bourbon Pecans

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Sweater weather is here. Even in Arizona, we get enough of a chill to break out sweaters and scarves, clutch hot coffee closely and snuggle deeper into our beds. I love this time of year and all the tasty goodies it brings with it.

After spending Thanksgiving stuffing myself with food, wine and pastries galore, I need something sweet to accompany my morning coffee that won’t slather more holiday pounds onto my lovely hips. Enter cinnamon pecans.

Commonly seen in little paper cones that you eat at the hockey games. The warmth and sweetness from the cinnamon and a little nip of bourbon are the perfect compliment to a cup of coffee, or a Guinness, if you are in a cold arena. These are great to bag-up and give to loved ones for the holidays or as a host/hostess gift. If you have a fireplace, please enjoy these in front of a crackling fire for me.

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Cinnamon Bourbon Pecans

Rachel Ellrich Miller


3 ea. Egg Whites
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 tsp. Bourbon or Whiskey
1 tsp. Water
1 # Pecan Halves, Raw
1 cup Granulated Sugar
4 tsp. Cinnamon, Ground
1 tsp. Fine Sea Salt


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. In one bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, cinnamon and fine sea salt. In another bowl, with another whisk, whisk egg whites, vanilla extract, water, and bourbon or whiskey until frothy. Add the 1 # of pecan halves to the egg white mixture, and coat all the pecans throughly. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the coated pecan halves, tapping out excess liquid, and adding them a spoonful at a time to the sugar mixture. You can coat all the pecans at one time, but to keep excess liquid out of the sugar mixture, scooping with a slotted spoon works best. Once they have been added to the sugar mixture, stir and coat them all.

Place the coated pecans onto a greased sheet pan. Bake the pecans for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Stir the pecans every 10-15 minutes (about 4-5 times during the baking). Once your pecans are done baking, allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a clean, cool sheet pan to continue cooling throughly. Wash your sheet pan immediately, as it will be coated with baked sugar, so best to clean while still warm. Store in a sealed container.

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