Monday, November 23, 2015

Biscochitos - New Mexico's beloved holiday cookie

Officially dedicated as New Mexico’s state cookie in 1989, Biscochitos are typically made at Christmas and are a beloved holiday tradition. Their unique flavor comes from anise seed and brandy. 

If you can’t find the seeds, anise extract is an option. And, if you must, you can use vegetable shortening, but it's the lard that gives these little cookies their light and flaky texture.

A few more holiday cookie recipes worth adding to your list like French Coconut Madeleines and Greek Finikia are featured in the December issue of Boomers and Beyond

Yield: 5 dozen

2 cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups lard or vegetable shortening
2 eggs
2 teaspoons anise seeds, toasted or ½ teaspoon anise extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup brandy

Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheets. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine ½ cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Cream lard until fluffy. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups sugar, eggs, and anise seeds or anise extract and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Combine with shortening mixture. Add brandy and mix thoroughly.

On a well-floured surface, roll dough out about ¼ inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Sprinkle cookies with cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to cooling racks, and when completely cooled, place in airtight containers or freeze.

(Recipe adapted from Santa Fe School of Cooking, Celebrating the Foods of New Mexico, Gibbs Smith, 2015)

Monday, November 16, 2015

What's Hot this Holiday

No...I haven't decorated my home for Christmas yet - I'm all about that late fall look for Thanksgiving. I just wanted to share some of the photos and holiday trend tips that I put together for an article in our local December Boomers and Beyond newspaper. One nice thing about writing a blog is that I can share the photos that didn't make it into the paper due to space limitations.

All of the photos in this piece were taken at Cottage on the River, a home decor boutique in Grand Rapids, Ohio. A special thanks to my friends, Karen and Erika, for opening their shop up for pre-open house photos. 

And, as I mentioned, here is what's trending in decorating this holiday season. 

Faux fur. From stockings and table runners to robes and slippers, faux fur will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Personalization. Anything can be customized these days with initials, monograms and phrases that say – this is our home

Look for ornaments, tags and banners coated in chalkboard paint and fill your abode with expression.

Plaid! Pillows, garlands, wrapping paper and ribbons are showing their Scottish side in tartans, hounds tooth, checks and window pane plaids. 

Traditional green and red, bright, or pastel patterns are in abundance this season.

No Cords. No need to play the extension cord game. Unplug with cordless wreaths, garlands, swags and greenery for your outdoor decorating needs. 

Many come with remote controls so no more running outdoors to light up your display.

Non-traditional Color Combos. Mix it up with a new color combination. Try cranberry and mocha, mixed metals, or silver and frost.

Flocked Trees. Bring the outdoors in with a flocked Christmas tree that exudes that freshly fallen snow effect.

Let the countdown begin! Showcase your family's individuality and style, and create an unforgettable holiday and memories that last well into 2016.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Easy as Pie - Grand Traverse Pie Co.

On any given Saturday, or in this case Sunday, you can find me and my husband tooling around Ann Arbor, MI. While it’s not too far away, it’s just far enough to give us that get the heck out of dodge feeling. 

Each time we visit, we look for new spots to explore – the most important place, of course, is where to have lunch. In a city known as a culinary epicenter, finding something fresh and interesting is as easy as pie.

Our 45 minute drive north gives me the opportunity to peruse through my handy Ann Arbor and vicinity visitor’s guide to investigate our final dining destination. 

This week’s find was the Grand Traverse Pie Company, which has 15 locations throughout Michigan including: Traverse City, Petoskey, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and lucky for us, Ann Arbor.

Pie is their specialty, and special they are, all created from fruits grown in Michigan. 

The usual flavors looked lovely, but it was the combo pies that looked the most delightful – strawberry rhubarb; cherry peach; and the ABC pie or apple, blueberry and cherry. 

Most are available with a traditional pie crust or with a buttery crumb topping. 

And then there were the fruit bars…

Oh wait, we did go there for lunch. 

The selection of quiche, pot pies, sandwiches and salads looked almost as scrumptious as the pies, almost... 

Have a great day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cowgirl Up

It is with great pleasure that I report that Cowgirl Couture is cropping up all around us. From fashion magazines and shopping malls to online and local retailers, southwestern-inspired clothing is in abundance this fall.

Layers of turquoise from the pages of Cowgirl magazine - December 2015

Designers such as Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel have been ramping up the trend on the runways for a few years now by blending equestrian, Native American and Ranch wear features into a wild west meets urban cowgirl panache.

Velvet jacket, broomstick skirt and Gaucho hat - Cowgirl magazine Dec. 2015

Even O.P.I. entered the game by offering its Texas line of nail polishes.

Lucky for us, these haute couture designs have brought leather, cowhide, fringe and ruffles into mainstream cowgirl chic. Just lasso some boots, broomstick skirts, shawls or ponchos, and blanket coats and you’re set for the season. The horse is optional.

Cashmere cape, cardigan and felt hat - Cowgirl magazine - Oct/Nov 2015