Having a birthday right smack between Christmas and New Years (December 28th, if you’re curious) can feel like a mixed bag, especially as a little kid. On the one and less fun hand, Christmas will of course always overshadow a birthday, and the window for bday excitement is pretty small. But on the other hand and particularly if you have a Christmas elf for a mother who is happy to keep the joyful vibe of the holiday going, you get the fun of getting your birthday presents under the tree. And if you’re very lucky, when you sneak down in the morning to inspect your presents (because yes, my sweet mother put them out overnight just like she did at Christmas) you’ll find an especially special cookie waiting in the oven, having set up and “cooked” overnight: chocolate chip meringues.
Around the holidays, I like to have cake on hand at all times. Cookies are great, too, but it’s cake that really feels festive to me. I like admiring a pretty cake under a dome and I like serving slices of sweetness on Santa Claus plates. As much as I love sinking hours into an elaborate cake project like a Bûche de Noël, the cakes I enjoy most this time of year are the simplest ones. This cranberry torte has been a favorite of mine for a couple of years. It’s a breeze to make, it’s decked out with merry pops of red, and it’s a balanced, sweet-tart treat that feels appropriate at any time of day.
The first time that Hal met most of my New York friends was at a Christmas party I hosted in my first Brooklyn apartment. It felt giddily celebratory for a lot of reasons–I finally had an apartment suited to having a party, I was living in Brooklyn and so much closer to so many of my lovely friends, and I was dating a guy I was really excited about. And, of course, it was a chance to make my favorite treats for some of my favorite people, something absolutely love to do. Hal and I moved in together the following September, and since then we’ve hosted three Christmas parties together (plus a house warming, a baby shower, a rehearsal dinner, and a birthday fete here and there), the last just yesterday. And I still love making my favorite treats for my favorite people. So much so that I’ve developed a pretty set menu for our snacky desserty parties.
I’ve posted a number of stir-fries (a couple of chicken dishes and pepper steak), but I try out way more stir-fries than I share. I’m particular about the flavors (they’d better be big) and the textures (crisp veggies, small pieces of meat, and a thick sauce), leaving many lackluster dishes to fall into the recipe compost bin of not-quite-good-enough. This spicy stir-fry featuring a ton of veggies and satisfying steak has been on repeat for over a year in our house, so I figured it was time to share.
Just a few weeks ago, Hal and I celebrated two years of marriage and four years together (we organized our anniversaries very efficiently: first date on November 7th 2012, engaged on November 9th 2013, and married on November 8th 2014!). In the time that we’ve been building our relationship, we’ve of course started to create traditions for our little two person family. We watch Die Hard every Christmas, we go back to the bar where we got married on our wedding anniversary, we exchange teeny gifts on New Years (brought by the New Year’s Elf, of course), and when we get back to my childhood home after celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family, we have a second dinner of sausage and peppers.
I love to try new Thanksgiving recipes every year and I especially love sharing my fresh discoveries here (like this corn pudding, these sweet potatoes, and this corn casserole). But there are also many turkey day recipes that I’ve made over the years and haven’t yet had a chance to share. Rather than continue to hoard these half a dozen tried-and-true dishes, I decided to share them all at once below. If you’re still scratching your head for Thursday’s menu, I very much recommend these recipes.
I finally found a Thanksgiving dish that has Ed looking forward to turkey day. I’ve written before about how Ed’s chief Thanksgiving complaint is that the food doesn’t have enough crunch or heat. This dish, an easy-breezy, decadently cheesy corn casserole, has crunch and spice to spare. It’s one of the simplest, but most satisfying holiday sides I’ve made and I have a feeling it’s going to be in the rotation for years.