Happy almost New Year! Are you celebrating tonight? We've decided to keep it low-key and close to home. A couple of friends are coming over and we'll be enjoying our customary New Year's Eve feast: all-you-can-eat crab legs and knäckebröd with cheese.

A few weeks ago I asked my friend Christen if she'd help me conjure up toast-worthy cocktails for New Year's Eve. I frequently bake with spirits, but I'm inexperienced when it comes to stirring up mixed drinks. We put our heads together and came up with two winners - Golden Spiced Pear Cocktail and Spiked Chile Hot Chocolate. Both are easy to make, and we even made a fun how-to video.

Well, here it is friends. My last advent post; the bookend to my first advent post. If you need that last, last, last minute gift, then this little jar mix may save your bacon.

If you're a seasoned baker, then you'll likely have all the ingredients in your pantry (or be able to substitute walnuts for hazelnuts), but if you're not - don't fret. Most grocery stores are still open on Christmas Eve, and will likely have everything you need for this gift right down to the quart jar. Just check the canning supplies aisle.

Say hello to the World's Easiest Peanut Butter Fudge!

I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to 2 and 3 ingredient recipes. Maybe because I've tested more than a dozen and the results are mostly underwhelming. This recipe makes up for all of those disappointments. It's a keeper. This fudge is just so creamy and smooth!

Truffle making is low effort with major payoff, and that's why they're great to make at Christmastime. If you can stir together chopped chocolate and steaming heavy cream at a 2:1 ratio, then you can make melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles that will rival any fancy chocolatier's.

These particular truffles feel extra festive, and the recipe is simple. Add a little bit of hazelnut liqueur or extract to the mix, refrigerate, roll, and then toss in chopped hazelnuts. The end result is an uncomplicated approximation of Ferrero Rocher.

I'm willing to bet that most of our kitchens will be running at full speed this week. I do quite a lot of baking the week of Christmas, and I always appreciate cookie recipes that are high yield. This recipe makes about 6 dozen cookies and that means there's plenty to go around!

I've always associated Turkish delight with the snowy landscape of Narnia (remember the White Witch cake I made in 2011?). I long for some snowfall outside my own window, but it looks like our Christmas Day forecast is for 70 degree weather. That's okay. Even if I can't have a white Christmas, I can still have a bit of winter magic in my candy dish,

It's hard to believe we're just a few days away from Christmas. I hope everyone is soaking in every last little bit of happy this season has to offer. Around here that means sniffing cut pine wreaths at the market, wrangling the pugs into Christmas pajamas and incorporating eggnog in as many sweet things as possible.

I love pink glittery Christmas decor, and it seems to be showing up in my baked goods, too! This cupcake is inspired by the retro 'Pink Squirrel' cocktail. The drink is a bit like a milkshake served in a martini glass (yes please) and it's flavored with crème de noyaux (almond liquor) and crème de cocoa.

I hosted my first cookie swap more than five years ago, and the thing I remember most about it was the happy feeling I had perusing all those cookies. Cookies of all shapes and flavors were sprawled on every surface area in my dining room. I couldn't tell you what games we played or even who all the guests were (ha!) but I do remember it was the first time I'd ever encountered gumdrop cookies - mostly because my first thought was that gumdrops had no business being in cookies.

I've been making these salty-sweet pretzel sticks for years. Now that I think about it, I've been making them for more than a decade! When I worked an office job years go I remember placing a huge tray of these in our break room. About two hours later they were all gone - all except the stick-ends of a few pretzels. Someone had eaten the candy-covered part and left the remaining pretzel sticks on the candy tray - who does that?!  (So funny!)

If you've been keeping up with my Christmas recipe advent, then you may be thinking to yourself "cranberries and pistachios - again?!". Yep. I can't quit them, it's true. There's something especially wonderful about tart dried cranberries in smooth white chocolate.

The stollen I enjoy each holiday season is not homemade. It's an import from Germany that's filled with raisins and marzipan, and because of its long trek it can also be described as - dry. I've come to love the flavor of this bread and count its virtues instead of its imperfections, however, I felt like I was missing out on something. This year I wanted to taste fresh stollen.

I was fully on board to make the traditional version which requires yeast and all the time constraints that come with it - until I found a recipe for 'Easiest' stollen from King Arthur Flour. I read the instructions twice through and returned my bag of SAF Red to the refrigerator.

These little cakes remind me of delicious cinnamon-sugared doughnut muffins, except they taste like gingerbread - which makes them even cozier in my opinion. They are scrumptiously poppable, and they've served us well as a quick breakfast on many a December morning.

My husband is particular about his daily brew, so he buys coffee beans freshly roasted and occasionally we have a handful left over - not enough for a cup, but too many to toss. I decided to save up these leftover beans for a baking project. I'm definitely a sucker for coffee and chocolate together, and that's how this recipe came to be.

Say hello to my new favorite candy. I can't believe it took me so long to try it - and talk about easy! I'm not even sure it qualifies as a recipe. Peanut butter and chocolate are melted together, and then mini marshmallows are folded in to the mix. It's a little like rocky road, but softer and without the rocky part (no nuts!). It's smooth and creamy and the marshmallows give it a bouncy quality that makes it totally addictive.

When I attempted this bread recipe for the first time I made a happy little mistake. The instructions called for chopped cranberries, and I just threw them in the batter whole. Well, those cranberries did what cranberries do - they bobbed to the top of the batter and floated on the surface.

I thought I'd really messed things up, but I baked the loaves anyway. They turned out tasting absolutely fantastic, and the burst red berries on top made the bread vibrant and beautiful. I ended up making this recipe twice more. It's dense and sweet and so citrusy. Every bite is packed with something to savor; tart cranberries, walnuts, and candied orange peel.

I've made 'hot chocolate on a stick' for seven consecutive years at Christmastime. Winter just isn't the same without it now! I usually start making batches in December. One or two batches are assigned for stocking stuffers and other batches aren't for giveaway at all. They're made for our enjoyment throughout chilly winter months.

There have been many iterations of this treat over the years. I made a spicy batch the time ModCloth invited me to guest post on their blog. Another time I created a strawberry version for Betty Crocker. I think this spiked version may be the best yet!

Hello, friends! This blog post is extra, extra special. Not only do I have a delicious mulled wine chocolate cake recipe for you (all fancied up Bûche de Noël style with black cherry buttercream filling -swoon) , I also have a really fun, unique giveaway.

As you may know, I wrote a book about giving sweets the loving touch of a little salt. But if there was just one candy in the entire world that I could bestow this virtue upon it would have to be fudge. Usually fudge is too one note. It's only sweet. A quick fix for this problem is to add roasted salted nuts and some zingy dried berries. Therefore you will have a symphony of sweet, salt, and tart, and many interesting textures; creamy, crunchy and chewy.

Did I mention this recipe takes only minutes to prepare?

Tis the season to RSVP, don your favorite sequin dress or sharp suit, and toast the holiday season - just like these funny gingerbread folk!

I got the idea for these after taste-testing a few  spirit-filled chocolates. I love all kinds of things in miniature and I found the teensy foil-wrapped bottles amusing. I began planning a cocktail party in miniature. All I needed were some guests, so I whipped up a batch of chocolate gingerbread cookies and my favorite meringue icing.

Hello and welcome to Santa Land! Population: As many chocolate foil-wrapped santas as you can fit on a pound of white chocolate bark.

Christmas always needs as little kitsch, if you ask me, and these curious looking foil wrapped Santas really made me giggle. Some are holding lanterns and wreaths, and others are giving me some major side-eye! What's up Santa? Are you judging me? (I almost forgot - that's his job!)

I've been completely smitten with the towering kransekake ever since I laid eyes on it years ago. Some people know it as Norwegian Wedding Cake, or Wreath Cake. It's made in Scandinavian countries for weddings, Christmas, and other important celebrations.

Take a look inside my first book on page 128 and my fandom is evident. I included a recipe for 'Viking Wedding Cake' - a tall kransekake with zig-zag piping and two fair weather viking flags on top. I'm not sure what I love more, the concentric circles, the cookie-like texture of the 'cake', or the fact that the hollow interior can hold a bottle of your favorite bubbly. One thing is for sure, it's a great party centerpiece and a good conversation-starter, too.

Most of the time I'm more enthusiastic about eating cookies than baking them. My brain doesn't like too much repetition, and I've been known to exile half batches of cookie dough to the freezer just because I'm too bored to finish the job. Having said that, there is one type of cookie that delights me to the very end: Slice and bake. 

I can't tell you how long I've had Lofthouse style sugar cookies on my 'must bake' list. Too long, really. Whenever I see them in grocery stores I can't help but smile. They are always decorated with sprinkles (yes!) and they are often seasonally themed; heart sprinkles for Valentine's Day, red, white and blue sprinkles for July 4th and - you guessed it! My favorite version is Christmas themed with red and green sprinkles.

This year I'm adding something unexpected to my give-away cookie trays: gourmet cookie dough! I'm talking about the kind of dough you eat instead of bake. Do you think I'll get many complaints? Yeah, right! Who doesn't love delicious edible cookie dough straight from the batter bowl? This cookie dough is eggless, and 100% edible in its raw (read: un-raw) form.

In this recipe, the flour is toasted before you use it as an ingredient. This makes the cookie dough completely safe to eat, as it removes any of the dangers associated with eating raw flour (E.coli, I'm lookin' at you!). Just place the flour on a baking sheet and toast at 300F for 10 minutes. You can also heat it in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until an instant read thermometer reads 160F.

Beep-beep! Special delivery for all those on Santa's 'nice' list!

These salty-sweet pecans make great little stocking stuffers (or for stuffing into your purse when you're marathon Christmas shopping and need a snack - guilty!). These start out on the stovetop for a quick toss in a brown sugar-spice mixture, and then they're finished in the oven. Your kitchen will smell heavenly during this process, and the most difficult part is trying not to eat all of them before you get them packaged for gift giving.

I suppose I should tell you that's there's not one egg in this nog, but believe me when I tell you that it's truly delicious and pretty close to the genuine article. It's not quite as thick as the original, but it's close! This instant mix keeps for up to six months, so if you're like me and crave eggnog after it's gone from grocery store shelves, then you'll appreciate this recipe!

Hello December! 

This month I'm trying something new. I think homemade gifts are the best gifts, so each day from now until Christmas Eve I'll post a new gift-worthy treat that's easy to make and delightful to give. I'm so excited to share all the sweet things I've cooked up. First up - one of my favorite cookie mixes!

Homemade baking mixes are so convenient at Christmastime. It cuts the dough prep work in half, and that's especially nice if you have little ones that want to help you bake Christmas cookies. It's a great way to create special memories without turning your kitchen upside-down. 

This baking mix is a little more awesome that most - not only because it's delicious and super chippy, but because the mix yields about 4 dozen cookies. That's plenty to share! It's perfect for busy folks with upcoming cookie swaps or multiple holiday parties to attend. 
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