(Apologies in advance: this post is basically the blogging equivalent of the non-stop Christmas carols you hear at the mall which everyone hates but I secretly love. There, you've been warned. I'm sorry for any cavities that may ensue.)
Growing up, there was an ice cream place right by the harbor that had the best ice cream, but there were only two flavors I cared about: the bright blue bubblegum ice cream, with actual gumballs frozen and buried throughout; and the cheerfully pink peppermint candy cane. Walking through the Heights the other day, I had the strongest craving for that peppermint candy cane ice cream - nevermind the recent snow storm and the thirty-something degree weather.
While Christmas ice cream makes more sense in Southern California than New York, in the spirit of that craving, I thought I would share some of my favorite holiday treats - the things that I look forward to all year round and which really put a festive spring in my step.
(And if you do feel inclined to create your own peppermint ice cream, the photo above is from Simply Recipes, which used a David Lebovitz recipe. It's much lower on the artificial coloring quotient than the ice cream of my childhood, but it still looks good.)
Pfeffernusse cookies: I don't know how this Jewish girl from Orange County developed such a fondness for a German Christmas cookie, but there you have it. I always end up buying a box every year, but The Kitchn shared a recipe that makes a homemade version seem simple enough.
Panetonne: Similarly, I don't know how my mother - who is Chinese and was raised in Peru - grew to love this Italian Christmas bread, studded with dried fruits, but she was obsessed. Every year she has to have it, and I never pass a display of panetonne without thinking of her. I've never tried making it myself, but here's a round-up of recipes incorporating panettone into other dishes, including a bread pudding that sounds amazing (pictured).
Trader Joe's Peppermint Pretzel Slims: They are the perfect blend of salty and sweet, and their crunch is addicting. I could easily inhale an entire package in one sitting, which is why I have to stock up as soon as these hit the shelves.
Better than Bailey's Hot Chocolate: My grandmother was fond of Bailey's, and I remember after big family meals, when the plates had been cleared and conversation had slowed as we patted our over-full bellies, she would try to get my mom and aunts to drink some Bailey's with her. One year when I was in high school she wasn't getting any takers, so she eventually turned to me - my mom intervened and declined on my behalf, and I'll always regret not getting a little schnockered with my grandma.
In her honor, then, is this recipe from Serious Eats for a spiked hot chocolate. It's more involved then your standard packet of Swiss Miss with booze stirred in, but if you feel like investing the effort, it looks delicious. And what could be more inviting on a cold wintry night than a steaming mug of boozy hot chocolate?
Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie: This is a new favorite, from Smitten Kitchen. I made it last year and have been itching to make it again (J vetoed it for Thanksgiving since we already had pumpkin and apple and three pies for five people was too many - in his opinion - I say you can never have too much pie). It is a breeze to make and just so, so good.
Starbucks holiday lattes: I saved this 'til the end because I thought if you saw this first, you might just stop reading. I know the green mermaid is ubiquitous, and you may be rolling your eyes at me right now, but (begin playing Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" - haters gonna hate) I get excited for the red cups. There's something soothing about these sugar bombs, and they're definitely in the spirit of holiday over-indulgence. I know it's all manufactured and artificial and corporate and whatever whatever, but a peppermint mocha latte break turns another grey and freezing day at work into something a little brighter.
What treats make your holiday season complete?