It’s here! The turkeys have been put away and the Christmas ornaments and menorahs are coming out of the attic. Over the next few weeks, there will be shopping, parties, religious celebrations and many, many family gatherings.
Every December I find myself looking for something a little new and different. Maybe it’s a new holiday dish or a creative present for the teachers. Maybe I find a new drink to serve at a holiday party. It always varies. This year, with the help of ALDI, I am sharing four things that might help you out this holiday season. I am positive that one of these tricks will be perfect for whatever you have planned.
1) Teacher Gifts/Hostess Gifts
Every year I struggle with teacher gifts. Do I do a gift card? Is coffee and tea too ordinary? Do they even drink it? This year I’ll be making “Cookies in a Jar”. It’s the perfect gift for anyone you want to show your appreciation toward this month. And it’s super EASY.
Buy a mason jar. Pour in a package of ALDI cake mix (vanilla or chocolate) and then layer in whatever mix-ins you want. My most recent batch had oatmeal, chocolate chips and toffee bits. Then add a card with the recipe. You just need the contents of the jar, plus 2 eggs and 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Then you bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes (until golden).
Want to make your gift a little more special? Get a small basket and add in some chocolate and cookies.
2) Yummy Treats
Looking for a new goodie to make this year? How about White Chocolate Cranberry Blondies?
Carlini Cooking Spray
1 cup Southern Grove Dried Cranberries
2 cups hot water
¾ cup Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, softened
1 ½ cups Baker’s Corner Brown Sugar
4 tsps Stonemill Essentials Pure Vanilla
2 Goldhen large eggs
1 ½ cups Baker’s Corner All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baker’s Corner baking powder
½ tsp Stonemill Essentials iodized salt
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Coat a sheet pan with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper.
- In a small bowel, rehydrate the dried cranberries by combining with hot water.
- Let sit for one minute and then drain.
- In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time.
- In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add to the butter mixture and mix to combine.
- Fold in the cranberries and white chocolate, then evenly press into the pan.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow to cook for 20 minutes.
3) Drink Station
Every party requires drinks. At your next gathering, considering setting up a hot chocolate station, as well as serving Not Your Momma’s Cider.
At your Chocolate Station, put out marshmallows, crushed peppermint, whipped cream and even some sprinkles. Make it festive by adding Candy Cane stirrers.
To make Not Your Momma’s Cider, you’ll need to 1 cup Wicked Grove Hard Cider, 8 cups Nature’s Nectar Apple Cider (divided), 6 cinnamon sticks (divided), 12 sprigs fresh thyme, 8 oz dark rum, 1 red apple (diced) and 1 green apple (diced).
- In a medium bowl, combine hard cider and 4 cups apple cider. Pour into ice cube trays.
- Freeze overnight.
- In a medium pot, combine remaining 4 cups apple cider, 2 cinnamon sticks and 8 sprigs of thyme. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in rum.
- Strain mixture into a medium bowl. Place mixture in refrigerator overnight to cool.
- Divide ice cubes and liquid among 4 mugs.
- Pierce apples with toothpicks, place on rims.
- Garnish with remaining cinnamon sticks and thyme sprigs.
TIP: Juice a lemon over apples to prevent browning. This drink can also be served hot; remove steps 1 and 3 and serve immediately.
4) The Big Meal
Consider Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. It’s a traditional side served in a decadent way.
3 cups Reggano Elbow Macaroni
8 slices Specially Selected Hickory Smoked Thick Sliced Bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cups Friendly Farms Heavy Whipping Cream
½ cup Priano Parmesan Cheese Wedge, Shredded
½ cup Priano Asiago Cheese Wedge, Shredded
½ cup Happy Farms Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
½ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Garlic Powder
¾ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Iodized Salt, divided
¾ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Ground Black Pepper, divided
2 8-ounce packages Specially Selected Maine Lobster Tails, removed from shell and chopped*
4 tablespoons Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, divided
½ cup Chef’s Cupboard Plain Bread Crumbs
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Bring a pot full of water to a rolling boil and cook macaroni for 6-8 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and reserve in the refrigerator.
- In a heavy bottomed stock pot on medium low heat, cook bacon for 8 minutes. Add onions and sauté until bacon is fully cooked and onions are tender. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Cook until roux turns light golden brown.
- Stir in wine and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add chicken broth and heavy cream and bring to a light simmer.
- Combine shredded cheeses, slowly whisk cheese into sauce until thoroughly melted. Add garlic powder, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to low, keep warm.
- Season lobster with remaining salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter on medium-high heat. Saute seasoned lobster for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked lobster and macaroni and cheese sauce and stir to combine.
- In a small mixing bowl, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave and fold bread crumbs into melted butter.
- Transfer mixture to a 9×11-inch casserole dish and top with bread crumb mixture. Bake at 375° for 7-10 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown.
Let me know if you try any of these ideas. I’d love to know what worked for you.
From both my house and ALDI, we wish you a very merry and bright holiday season, full of family and friends.
*All recipes in this post are printed with permission from the ALDI test kitchen. I received compensation for this post as part of a holiday campaign.