After dinner drinks are the best. From rich glasses of port to dessert liqueurs to coffee drinks, I love them all. And when you are too old to pub crawl on Saint Patrick’s Day, this is the perfect beverage.
Looking for a pretty Valentine’s mocktail that the entire family can enjoy? This cranberry, lime, and ginger combination is delicious and festive. It is a bit on the tart side, so if you prefer a sweeter mocktail, use equal parts cranberry juice and simple syrup.
Cranberry Ginger Mocktail
1 oz. ginger lime simple syrup (recipe below)
1.5 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
Combine ginger lime simple syrup and cranberry juice in a cocktail shaker and shake until well mixed.
Strain ginger cranberry mixture into a glass filled with ice.
Top with sparkling water.
Garnish with lime.
Ginger Lime Simple Syrup
While this was created for the Cranberry Ginger Mocktail, it also makes a good citrusy ginger ale syrup for a Sodastream.
2 inches of fresh ginger sliced
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on the stovetop.
Reduce heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 25 minutes.
Black History Month: Every year, Black History Month is a great opportunity to plunge into U.S. history, to read books by Black authors, and to watch movies from Black directors.
This Here Flesh:Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us. Cole Arthur Riley runs the beautiful and wise Instagram account, @blackliturgies. This Here Flesh, a multi-generational spiritual memoir, is her first book, and I cannot wait for it.
Anatomy: A Love Story: Historical fiction with an aspiring female doctor, a murder mystery, and dark academia vibes? Yes, please.
Tangerine Decals: I just invested in some renter-friendly decals for my blindingly white kitchen, and I love the end result. Thank you to my sister and her family for the Etsy gift card!
Hungarian White Wines. Random yet specific? Probably, but lately I’ve been drinking crisp whites from the Tokaj region of Hungary like furmint and hárslevelű. If all goes well, I will have a dinner recipe with Hungarian wine pairing here soon.
The earliest variation of this salad was a clean-out-the-fridge recipe, something I pulled together the day before grocery shopping.
The original also had shredded brussel sprouts instead of cabbage, but Trader Joe’s was cleared out when I went to recreate it. Not a single brussel anywhere. I can only conclude there is a cult of women in size 00 Lululemon leggings on a brussel sprout cleanse. If you see them huddled together, with their balayaged heads bent together, they are whispering, “Juiced brussel sprouts changed my life!”
May it be a short lived eating disorder so I can start buying brussel sprouts again.
This is exactly the type of entrée salad that I love because there are so many ingredients that you get different flavors in each bite. Also, there are so many colors in this salad that you can skip your multi-vitamins that day. (Please don’t take medical or nutritional advice from me. I know nothing.) But mostly, it’s a good way to make the most of winter produce like cabbage and grapefruit, which typically doesn’t get the same love as summer produce. The addition of pantry ingredients and freezer ingredients make it easy to pull together.
4 cups shredded cabbage (or brussel sprouts, if the Lululemon army leaves some for you)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, sliced
6 scallions, chopped
1 grapefruit, peeled, segmented, and chopped
12 oz shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined with tails removed
1 large avocado, chopped
1 cup edamame, cooked and cooled
1/2 cup raw almond slivers
Optional toppings: sesame seeds, cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 300.
Roast almond slivers for 5 minutes and let cool.
Stir together all dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Mix together all salad ingredients in a large bowl, except almond slivers.
Stir in dressing and mix.
Top with almond slivers. Add sesame seeds and cilantro, if using.
Meal prep tips:
If you are making this for a week’s worth of lunches:
Prepare almond slivers as described in step 2. Store in a small container at room temperature.
Prep cabbage, scallions, and red bell pepper. Store in a large container in the fridge.
Prepare salad dressing and store in a small container, also in the fridge.
Each day, prep shrimp, edamame, avocado, and grapefruit. Assemble your salad.
In my opinions, salads are always suggestions, so you should always feel free to replace grapefruit with clementines; or replace almonds with sunflower seeds; or increase/decrease acidity in the salad dressing. For dietary specific variations:
For vegetarian, either replace shrimp with either tofu or extra edamame.
For soy allergies and sensitivities, omit edamame and use coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce.
Beach reads are an established pseudo-genre. There is no shortage of sun-soaked escapist reads. But they do have an opposite. Books set in the dead of winter tend to be atmospheric and more delicately plotted. These are books you will want to read with a cup of cocoa, a tartan blanket over your legs, and a candle burning on your coffee table. Hygge vibes are not optional.
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Set during the siege of Leningrad, Lev and Kolya find themselves in prison and due to be executed. The two young men are told that they will be permitted to live if they accomplish the impossible: find one dozen eggs for the wedding cake of a Soviet colonel’s daughter. Lev and Kolya wander the starving city, chasing down rumors of still un-slaughtered chickens, making unlikely friendships, and fleeing enemies. This is a great read for someone looking for a more unconventional World War II novel, and you will love the characters.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
The year is 1987 and 14-year-old June Elbus has only one friend: her uncle Finn. After Finn’s death from AIDS, Toby comes into her life. While June had never been told of his existence, Toby had been Finn’s partner for approximately a decade. “I was the man no one wanted to see,” Toby says of his role in both Finn’s life and funeral. “He’s the guy who killed Uncle Finn,” June’s sixteen-year-old sister, Greta, says of Toby. June isn’t sure if Toby killed her uncle or not, but she is grateful to befriend someone who understands her loss, and she knows the only time that she can spend time with Toby is during tax season, when her accountant parents are not home. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a beautiful story of a misfit friendship.
The Snow Childby Eowyn Ivey
Mabel and Jack, a married couple mourning their dream of having children, move to Alaska to get away. The couple is unprepared for the darkness, the cold, seasonal affective disorder, and food insecurity in a difficult-to-farm land. One day, Mabel and Jack in a rare moment of playfulness, build a snow child in their yard. The next day, the snow child is destroyed, but a little girl is spotted running through the woods, accompanied by a fox. The couple tries to find the identity of the little girl, but there are no families with small children living in the vicinity, and Mabel remembers a Russian folktale her father told her about an elderly couple who make a snow child, and the child leaves them because they resort to dishonest measures to keep her. A memorable read that blends early 20th century Alaskan history, magical realism, and Russian folklore.
The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch
Full disclosure: This is actually the second book in the Hangman’s Daughter series, but I know you can read them out of order because this is the first of the series I read, and it did not confuse me or keep me from reading the first book afterwards. This book set in 17th century Bavaria is a murder mystery in a perfect snow globe of a setting. When a well-liked priest is poisoned, Jakob Kuisl, hangman, and Simon Fronwieser, son of the local physician, turn to a note the priest scribbled just before his death for clues. As they search for answers, they attract the attention of a dangerous sect of monks and learn about a legendary treasure of the Knights Templar. Jakob Kuisl is an intriguing detective. He’s a hangman because he has little choice in the matter, being descended from a line of hangmen, but he’s also well-read, moral, and honorable. The very fact that he is the one who has to execute convicted murderers is what gives him the incentive to make sure the correct person is caught.
One by One by Ruth Ware
Snoop, a successful English tech start up, is holding their corporate retreat in a chalet in the French Alps. When they arrive at the chalet, dressed in designer clothes and already drunk, caretaker Erin knows exactly how to handle their kind as she has done it hundreds of times before. But when the Snoop crew gets down to work, Erin begins to realize that things are a bit strange here. With the offer of a company buyout, the shareholders are torn between the two warring cofounders, Eva and Topher. And strangely, all of the pressure seems to be on Liz, the shy and awkward former secretary of Snoop. After one of the group goes missing while skiing in dangerous conditions, an avalanche isolates the Snoop staff in the chalet, and then they are murdered one by one. A well-written mystery with isolated And Then There Were None vibes, One by One is a definite page-turner.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
They were the best of friends at Oxford, but they grew apart over time. Still they travel to an exotic location each year to celebrate the new year, and this year they find themselves in a luxurious yet isolated hunting lodge in Scotland. Beautiful Miranda has been disappointed by her lack of professional success in life, and so she keeps a grip on her role as queen of the friend group. Workaholic Katie wishes she hadn’t come. Emma, who joined the group as Mark’s girlfriend, wants to cement her status in the glamorous friend circle by planning the best new years celebration yet. Everyone at the lodge is hiding a secret, even the housekeeper Heather and gamekeeper Doug, and on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead. Told from alternating points of view, The Hunting Party is a suspenseful mystery.
Check on your hypochondriac friends. We are not okay.
Omicron’s symptoms are pretty close to that of allergies, which I suffer from year round, and therefore I think he’s a jerk. I had a COVID-19 test scheduled for this morning, a just in case measure before I see my elderly parents and also family visiting from California. I’ve had a gremlin lodged up my right nostril since the day after Christmas, and while he’s likely just an angry bout of allergies, I keep reading about people with mild cases of the sniffles and positive COVID tests. (I really need to get off Twitter. It’s worse than WebMD.)
I’ve taken a handful of COVID tests, both before and after vaccination, and they’ve all been negative. There’s no reason this time should be different, but I am still worried about dismissing a real threat and infecting my family, so I pushed down all my fears of being the girl who cried COVID and sought available testing. After striking out with COVID testing at local CVS pharmacies and the local urgent care, I found a testing site near my old neighborhood in Canton. It had terrible reviews, but it was listed on a government website, so I figured it was legit and probably just had stressed out staff with a terrible bedside (carside?) manner. I was able to snag an 11 am appointment with an ease that should have alarmed me. I answered a view questions, then had a time confirmed, and then did a pre registration that involved adding my insurance card and drivers license numbers in both image and text box forms.
After driving nearly 20 minutes and getting lost in the most generic office building area (I really should not have been that lost. It was a 2 minute drive from my old house and directly behind my cat’s veterinarian office), I found the office/testing site. It had a handwritten sign on the door saying it was out of tests and to try their other location in another city. Suddenly the 1-star review of “They weren’t even there” I had read online made more sense. I started trying to work out if any attempt at identity theft can be accomplished with one’s driver’s license number and insurance policy number (no idea), but then met another couple who also registered online and had been to this site before. Apparently it is a legit testing site (they’d been here on an occasion when there were tests) and they had been trying to find testing since Christmas Eve, and this was common elsewhere.
So I’m tired. And sniffly. And torn about whether to go to my parents’ house.
It’s probably allergies, right?
Anyway, back to the post topic, which is New Year’s Eve appetizer recipes.
As there is a very infectious disease raging, may I make a suggestion for your New Years Eve? Stay home. Have a dance party with your significant other, your kids, or your dog or cat. (If you have a dance party with your dog, please, please get this on video and send it to me.) Open a bottle of bubbly, whether it’s fancy champagne, cava, prosecco, or a non-alcoholic bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider (the best non-alcoholic bubbly in my opinion) and all make all of the appetizers.
New Years Eve Menu:
Air Fried Artichoke Hearts with Roasted Garlic Aioli
Ginger Lime Shrimp
Air Fried Artichoke Hearts with Spiced Aioli
In full disclosure, I got the idea to air fry frozen artichoke hearts on a Trader Joe’s Facebook group from a lovely woman named Maria, so only the aioli is my own recipe. Since grocery availability varies by region, I feel I should add that Trader Joe’s is the only place I have reliably found frozen artichoke hearts.
12 oz bag frozen artichoke hearts
Salt and pepper
5 oz plain Greek nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons mayo
¼ teaspoon garlic
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Mix together aioli ingredients. Set aside.
Toss artichoke hearts (do not thaw) with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place in a single layer in your air fryer.
Set air fryer to 400° and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until crispy and golden.
Variation: You could also bread the artichoke hearts. I prefer to keep these simple and unbreaded.
Variations: If you don’t like cream cheese, try filling the peppers with either guacamole or hummus and some diced veggies. If peppers aren’t your favorite, top cucumber slices with cream cheese and Everything seasoning.
Ginger Lime Shrimp
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic minced
Juice of 1 lime (approx. 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
16 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
Mix together all ingredients for marinade in a large bowl.
Add shrimp. Let marinate in the refrigerator for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Drain shrimp and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake shrimp for 6 to 8 minutes.
Place on toothpicks or skewers for easier serving.
Variation: For a spicier version, add either red pepper flakes or a deseeded hot pepper (jalapeno or serrano) to the marinade.
This recipe is a cross between a white peppermint hot cocoa and a White Russian. It’s perfect for an evening spent wrapping presents, a weekend day spent reading, or time spent watching so-bad-they’re-good Hallmark Christmas movies. It is delicious, and I hope to never know exactly how many calories are in it. (If you do the math, don’t tell me.) If you care even less about calories than I do, you can swap out some of the milk for half-and-half.
This recipe is for one (generous) serving so double or triple as needed if serving a group.
1.5 cups milk
3 oz white chocolate, chopped or grated
2 drops peppermint extract
1 ounce Kahlua
1 ounce Vodka
Toppings: Whipped cream, candy canes, sprinkles or colored sugar
Heat milk over the stovetop. Do not boil.
Reduce heat to low and begin adding the white chocolate to the milk approximately 1 ounce at a time, whisking until dissolved, and then adding the next ounce.
Add in peppermint extract.
In each mug, add 1 ounce Kahlua and 1 ounce vodka. Pour in cocoa.
Make it pretty with your desired toppings, take a picture for Instagram, and enjoy!
Recommended movie pairing: White Christmas (of course!) Recommended book pairing: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Advent: I feel like Advent is the most special time of year. A time to look to God and His promises, a time to see the people who are invisible in our society and address their needs, and a time to focus on those we love. This year I am following Kate Bowler’s Advent devotional, which can be downloaded here. It’s beautifully written, thoughtful, and an overall joy.
Family: My sister and her family will be in Michigan immediately following Christmas, and I am so excited to see them. This year in particular, I miss the days when it was a given that I’d see all of my family on holidays because we all lived in the same place. And, as my dad gets older and more fragile, I don’t know how many holidays we will all have together, so I feel like each one needs to be treasured.
Holiday Decor: I am a firm believer in making everything festive in December and decorating all the things. As it’s a weird holiday season for me, I am overcompensating by decorating like a Hallmark Christmas movie heroine. You know, the one who has a sad conversation with her sister about whether she’ll find the time to get a tree this year while they are baking Christmas cookies in a kitchen that is exploding with Christmas garlands, with a mini wreath gracing each kitchen cabinet door? I’m her now.
Sweet July Fall/Winter Issue: I’m a bit of an Ayesha Curry fangirl. If you saw my gift guide, you’ll see her cookbook was on there. Curry, a cookbook author/entrepreneur/social justice activist/NBA spouse/mom of three, is a woman that I think is really inspiring. While most magazines are clickbaity in nature, hers just feels like a collection of things that interest her, so she’s sharing with everyone else. In this issue are holiday recipes, practical ways to address child hunger, profiles of innovators in the food industry, etc.
I have a bit of a shopping problem. My usual impulse buys include clothes, books, jewelry, and wine. I don’t always know when to stop. I have a similar issue with holiday shopping. I used to try to get all of my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving because shopping malls are a nightmare in December. I don’t do that anymore. Because I will always buy “just one more stocking stuffer” and then when it comes time to wrap everything up, I don’t always remember where I put it all. I think I like shopping for presents better than opening presents. It’s just such a quest.
So this is where I try to make my weakness your strength by offering you all sorts of Christmas and Hanukkah gift ideas. (You’re welcome.) Then in December, I am planning to post about gifts that you can make yourself. I have tried to include as many fair trade items as I could. As a former Ten Thousand Villages volunteer, I really love that organization. All of the artisan groups were established to give women and their families financial independence, and all of the merchandise is sustainable, with much of it recycled. I’ve also tried to include small businesses, mostly off Etsy. I am not an affiliate of any of the companies mentioned, and this post is strictly for fun.
Also, all images used here are product images.
Here are some codes I use throughout the list:
(S): Sustainable, eco-friendly goods. (FT): Fair trade (SB): Small business
GAP men’s recycled half-zip sweater. (S) A more sustainable way to get cozy, and there is just something about a man in a sweater.
Be Resilent necklace from Ten Thousand Villages (S) (FT). This necklace is not only dainty and pretty, it has quite a story behind it. The artisan group from Cambodia that makes this line of brass jewelry uses brass bomb casing, leftover from decades of war, to create jewelry that promotes peace. Which your friend will either find to be either inspiring or horrifying.
Chelsea sweater-blazer by J. Crew Factory. There are two things I love about this. First, it’s dressier than your average cardigan, but comfier and more casual than a blazer. Second, it is appropriate for women of all ages. I could see a younger woman dressing up leggings with this. At 43, I would wear this to work with skinny pants. I could see my seventy-something mom wearing this over a black dress and heading off to church.
For a Preteen or Teen:
Checkerboard Vans slip-on. This fun unisex shoe will be appreciated by all the teens in your life.
Beats Earbuds. If the teen in your life doesn’t own high-quality earbuds, it is guaranteed that it’s on their wish list.
For the Person of Faith:
A Rhythm of Prayer, edited by Sarah Bessey. This collection of prayers and essays on prayer is a guide to getting through dark times. Full review here.
For this and all other books on this list, please support independent bookstores if possible given your budget and where you live.
Tree of Life Menorah from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). This beautiful and intricate menorah is made by an artisan group from India, which is devoted to providing education and medical care for artisans and their families.
Olive Branch Dove Ornament from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). I think every family member I have has been gifted this ornament simply because I think it is so pretty.
For Your Environmentalist Friend:
Palm Leaf Bike Basket from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). Have a friend who prefers to bike around town to reduce their carbon footprint? They will adore this cute bicycle basket perfect for trips to the market.
The Puma Years by Laura Coleman. A memoir about how one woman moved from caring for a rescued puma to becoming a voice for environmental justice. Full review here.
Felt Dryer Ball Set by Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). For a friend who doesn’t mind a practical gift. These felt balls will eliminate the need for dryer sheets and lower your energy costs.
For the Self Care Queen:
Deep Sleep Bath Bomb from Lush (S). A bath bomb perfect for unwinding after a difficult work day. Great gift for the stressed out teacher, therapist, nurse, etc. in your life.
Dead Sea Mudand Olive Oil Soap from Ten Thousand Village (FT)(S). I know, I know. Mud sounds terrible like a terrible soap ingredient, but it’s great for your skin. This artisan group employs a group of Arab and Jewish women working together for peace and economic development.
Cat Nap Velvet Sleep Mask by Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). Because sometimes beauty sleep demands a cute mask. This artisan group provides employment opportunities for women in Bangladesh.
For Your Friend with a Green Thumb:
Elephant Planter from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). This cute planter would be a great addition to a home with boho decor.
Wild Interiors by Hilton Carter. This gorgeous coffee table book provides inspiring interior design and plant styling for the plant parents out there.
For the Foodie:
Plenty by Hannah Howard. The memoir of Hannah Howard, restaurant manager turned food writer, is a celebration of women in the food industry. The full review for this memoir can be found here.
The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry. This is my favorite cookbook that I purchased in 2021. Everything I have made from this has been delicious, easy, and approachable. Favorite recipes include the Baked Scallops with Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan and the Sheet Pan Salmon with Pesto Butter, Corn, and Tomatoes.