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Infuse the Holiday Season with Flavor

Photo by Lee Sherman
I’ve been a fan of Sonoma Syrup Co. ever since I discovered the brand at the Winter Fancy Food Show 15 years ago. Bursting with bright flavor, Sonoma Syrup Co.’s infused syrups are made with fresh ingredients and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Over the years I’ve written about them and their founder for KQED’s Bay Area Bites, over at SF Station, and on my blog. Because of my long relationship with the company, I’m happy to partner with them to share some of the ways I love using them the most.
While infused simple syrups are a great everyday ingredient that adds pizzazz to everything from iced tea to cocktails, they are particularly wonderful for entertaining. During the holiday season, we all want easy ways to impress family and guests, and Sonoma Syrup infused simple syrups fit the bill perfectly. Here are three great ways to boost the flavor at your holiday gatherings. 
1. Breakfast and Brunch 
Whether it’s Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas day or New Year’s day, an easy way to satisfy your guests is with a brunch buffet. Even if you’re just using pancake mix, a little infused simple syrup will make your crepes, waffles or pancakes special. Simply add a tablespoon or two in place of other liquids such as milk or water. I’ve also added it to the batter for French toast but it’s also good as a topping. Offer guests a selection of different infused simple syrups to drizzle on their hot cereal instead of brown sugar or make Toasted Vanilla Coconut Oats from Toot Sweetness. 
2. Winter Drinks 
The first thing I ever made with Sonoma Syrup was a sparkling cocktail with Sonoma Syrups lavender simple syrup and sparkling wine. It couldn’t have been easier, just a splash of simple syrup in a glass that was then filled with sparkling wine. It took something already festive—bubbles—and made it even more fun. With raspberry syrup you could also make a pretty Raspberry Champagne Spritzer from Design, Eat, Repeat.  
Simple syrups were originally designed for use in cocktails, but they are also great to sweeten any kind of drinks—alcoholic or not. Consider vanilla almond syrup in hot chocolate, Meyer lemon syrup in tea, white ginger syrup in hot apple cider or lavender syrup in coffee. Of course, there’s also Vanilla Egg Nog from Cali Girl Cooking. 
3. Desserts 
Let’s face it, holiday season is dessert season. There is no Thanksgiving without pie and no Christmas without cookies. There are so many ways to use Sonoma Syrup flavored simple syrups in baked goods and desserts of all kinds. The easiest might be as a sweetener in whipped cream. Vanilla, vanilla almond or white ginger are great flavors to complement pumpkin pie, gingerbread and apple pie. 
Bakers recommend using simple syrup on cake layers to keep it moist. Use a pastry brush to coat each layer before frosting. Infused simple syrup also is the key to making the easiest 2 ingredient glazes. Combine 1/4 cup of infused simple syrup with a cup of powdered sugar to make an icing or glaze to go on cakes or cookies. Try the glaze on cinnamon buns or on to turn a plain pound cake into Meyer Lemon Pound Cake

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. My thanks to Sonoma Syrup Co. for partnering with me. 

Instant Pot Smashed Potatoes by Natalie

Have you ever made smashed potatoes? They’re like baked potatoes, but smashed a little and toasted in the oven. But not smashed like mashed potatoes.

Did you know there was a mashed potato sliding scale of smashed-ness? Potatoes are serious business.

Ree’s Crash Hot Potatoes are FABULOUS. I love all the fresh rosemary she uses! I have a different variation to show you today with a hefty drizzle of garlic brown butter. You’ll love it.

Also, anything that helps me avoid bringing a giant pot of water to boil (and then draining said pot) is a high priority in my life, so I use my Instant Pot and a mere cup of water to cook my potatoes.

Here, I’ll show you.


Start off with three pounds of baby potatoes. Probably the smallest ones you can find, less than 2 1/2 inches thick. I saw these little reds and golds at Trader Joe’s and had to have them.


Prep your Instant Pot with a cup of water and place the wire rack in the bottom. Then pile in the potatoes. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can scale it up or down really easily depending on how much food you need.

Although I always scale up. Having leftovers saves my life. (And these potatoes are great in a leftover breakfast hash!)

While the potatoes are cooking, you can make the amazing garlic brown butter. It’s not hard. You basically melt butter in a skillet until it gets slightly golden brown and add some minced garlic and a pinch of pepper flakes.


After the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a big rimmed baking sheet.


Next, take another baking sheet and put it on top of the potatoes, like you’re going to nest the pans together.


This is the fun part. Push REALLY hard on the pan to smash the potatoes underneath. You could enlist the nearest 4-year-old to do it, too. They like that sort of thing.


I like to mess them up a little more with a fork to give them more surface area for crisping up later.


Now take that garlic brown butter and drizzle some of it over the potatoes. Mmm.

Pop it back into the oven under the broiler until the tops are more golden and crispy.


Drizzle the rest of the butter on top and serve them up with your favorite potato toppings or just eat them alone. That brown butter with the crispy garlic bits are fantastic.

This is such a cozy side dish and a fun alternative to traditional baked or mashed potatoes! You can find the full recipe and instructions below.


New Stainless Steel Ravioli Mould Dumpling Maker Mold Wrapper Pierogie Pie Crimper Pastry Dough Press Cutter Kitchen Gadgets (S 3inch)

Importance: The S 3inch is small size, crated the dumpling food size prefer for child or women

Lay a sheet of dough or pasta over the Dumpling Maker, add your favorite filling, then flip up to cut, seal and crimp the edges, creating a perfect little packet pie in seconds! Ideal for ravioli, pie,pierogi, dumplings, turnovers, pot sticker,mini spinach pies, bite-size calzones and more.


Material: 18/10 Stainless Steel
Package: 1* Ravioli mold
Dimensions: 5inch(L) x 3.5inch(W) x 1inch(H) ( Including the two handles)
Product Weight: 2.60 ounces
Shipping Weight: 3.37 ounces


Use fresh pasta dough and your favorite fillings to create homemade raviolis, pierogies, and dumplings with this simple half-circle ravioli mold. Made of 18/10 stainless steel, this mold maker will have you moving quickly through batch after batch.
With the Sharp edge outside could be cut the suitable size dough piece easily. Put the dough on the upper side, then you can add your favourite filling and close the ravioli moulds,lightly press down the Crimped edge to seal the dough tight.better brush the rim with egg yolk for safe closing.
Crafted of the finest 18/10 stainless steel that’s dishwasher safe.
Perfect Semicircle designed handles easy to hold and press.
Importance:This Mini size 3 inch better created the usage for children or women!

Product Features

  • Mirror-Polishing Surface and Sand Blasting Back Side: Stainless steel Chinese dumpling press machine with high mirror-polishing on surface and sand blasting treatment on the back side, 3 sizes for choice: diameter 3 inch, 4 inch and 4.5 inch( not including handle size), perfect size and seals great for Aushak
  • Sturdy & Safety: Ravioli mold made of 18/10 solid stainless steel, durable and food grade safety
  • Easy to Use: Put the dough or pasta on the surface, then add your favorite fillings on the dough and press the pie crimper to seal
  • Multifunction: Dumpling Wrapper also can use as the dough cutter to cut the suitable wrapper
  • Good kitchen gadgets for dumpling, pie, empanada, ravioli, pot sticker and pierogi, give a good seal around the perogie edges

Cuisinart CFO-3SS Electric Fondue Maker

Fondue Cord Chocolate Dipped Strawberry

Fondue Made Easy!

Your party is sure to be a success with the elegant brushed stainless Cuisinart Electric Fondue Set!

The 3-quart nonstick pot will accommodate all of your favorite fondue recipes, including chocolate, cheese, broth or oil. So call the family, or invite friends over to relax with a variety of great-tasting fondues, then enjoy easy, dishwasher safe cleanup.

Product Parts

Eight individual fondue forks
Fondue ring
Fondue bowl
Qt. Stainless steel bowl with
nonstick interior Brushed stainless steel housing
Adjustable temperature control probe

Product Features

3-quart capacity
Dishwasher-safe fondue pot
1000 watts of power
Nonstick interior
Adjustable temperature probe with eight settings
Eight fondue forks
Stainless steel fork ring
Instruction/Recipe book
Limited 3-year warranty

About the Fondue Pot

The fun of fondue gets a sleek and convenient makeover with the Cuisinart Electric Fondue Pot. Designed for use with oil, broth, chocolate, or cheese, the set combines powerful electric heat with easy temperature control and handsome but tidy construction. The 3-quart stainless-steel bowl is lined with nonstick coating for keeping heated foods from sticking, and the stand, bowl, ring, and temperature probe all assemble and disassemble easily. A combination of finishes—brushed on the bowl and ring, mirror on the stand and handles—gives the unit a contemporary flair. Fondue with Cheese Heat up is efficient here–getting oil to 375 degrees F takes between 10 and 15 minutes. Best of all, you can change the temperature setting with a simple turn of the dial to adjust for different ingredients or the passage of time. For clean up, run the entire set (temperature probe and cord removed, of course) through the dishwasher. A set of eight color-coded fondue forks is also included. Fully assembled, the fondue maker stands 6-1/4 inches high; the bowl is 8-1/4 inches in diameter at the opening.

Product Features

  • Electric fondue set suitable for chocolate, cheese, broth or oil
  • Includes base, bowl, temperature probe, 8 fondue forks, and fork rack, BPA Free
  • Elegant, brushed stainless-steel 3-quart bowl with nonstick interior
  • Removable temperature control is adjustable for wide range of recipes;Product Built to North American Electrical Standards
  • Dimensions : 6.12-Inch x 10.50-Inch x 7.00-Inch (LxWxH)
  • Includes base, bowl, temperature probe, 8 fondue forks, and fork rack
  • Elegant, brushed stainless-steel 3-quart bowl with nonstick interior
  • Removable temperature control is adjustable for wide range of recipes
  • Product Built to North American Electrical Standards

Chocolate Almond Sandies

Sandies are a style of shortbread cookie that is known for its crumbly, sandy texture. More often than not, these cookies are made with a good amount of ground nuts to create that texture. Pecan Sandies are the most recognizable cookie of this style, but these Chocolate Almond Sandies are a delicious option for chocoholics and shortbread-lovers looking for something a little different!

The cookies start with a simple shortbread dough that is made with flour, almond flour (aka ground almonds) and plenty of unsweetened cocoa powder. The almond flour and cocoa powder help to tenderize the dough, producing that sandy texture. With such a generous amount of cocoa, the dough itself has a wonderfully bittersweet flavor to it. To enhance the crispness of the cookies and add a touch of additional sweetness, I rolled the cookies in sugar before baking. The subtle sugar crust balances out the chocolate perfectly and makes the cookies even more memorable.

These cookies have a long, low baking time that helps them dry out as they cook. They should be set around the edges – meaning that they are firm to the touch and not too soft if you touch them – when they are done. The cookies will crisp up as they cool. If you under-bake the cookies, they will have a softer and more brownie-like texture to them, thanks to all the cocoa powder in the dough.

The finished cookies are absolutely delicious, with a wonderfully crisp texture and a deep chocolate flavor. They are easy to make and keep well, too. You may also notice that this recipe doesn’t contain any eggs, making it an excellent option if you happen to be low on baking supplies during the holiday season or are baking for those with dietary restrictions.

Chocolate Almond Sandies
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond flour (almond meal)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until softened. At low speed, blend in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, salt and almond flour until smooth. Gradually blend in the flour until completely incorporated.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place sugar in a shallow bowl and roll each cookie in sugar.
Arrange balls on prepared baking sheet. Use the heel of your hand to flatten each one until it is approximately 1/4-inch thick.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are firmly set. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 3-4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

The post Chocolate Almond Sandies appeared first on Baking Bites.

Chicken & Veggie Fall Skillet by The Pioneer Woman

I tried and tried to think of something bad to say about this recipe…but I haven’t come up with anything yet! Everything—from the seasoned roasted chicken to the tender autumnal veggies, to the luscious balsamic glaze to the crispy toast it’s served with—is just lovely. Winner, winner, chicken dinner and all that jazz. Here’s how to make it!

Start by preheating the oven to 375.

Next, add some cumin, salt, paprika, and chili powder in a small bowl…

Stir to mix it together. (You can have some fun with this spice mixture and spike it with whatever floats your boat. Curry powder, cayenne, the list goes on!)

Lay out the chicken thighs on a plate or sheet pan…

Then season both sides with salt and pepper and rub the spice mixture all over it.

Cut about half a butternut squarsh (I love pronouncing it like that) into chunks (or you can buy it already cut up in some supermarkets!)…

Then cut a peeled red onion into chunks…

And separate them a bit.

Brussels sprouts! I love them! Trim them and cut them in half. (And truth be told, I lop off the bottom and cut them in half first, which makes it easier to pull off the damaged outer leaves.) Or…yes. You can just buy them already trimmed and halved. What is the world coming to?

For the herbiage (not to be confused with verbiage, which, unlike herbiage, is actually a word), grab some thyme, rosemary, and sage. Simon and Garfunkel would be 75% pleased with these choices!

Pull the leaves off the thyme and rosemary, and stack it together with the sage leaves…

Then chop them pretty fine.

Time to start cookin’! Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, then add a couple to three tablespoons olive oil. Grab the chicken with tongs…

And place it skin side down in the skillet. Babysit the chicken to make sure the skin doesn’t stick to the skillet, and brown the first side for about 4 minutes.

Turn the chicken when the skin is nice and golden, then brown the second side for about 2 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and set it aside…

And pour off most of the excess grease. (You can always add some back in later if you miss it!)

Throw a bunch of garlic cloves into the skillet (if the skillet seems too hot/smoky, you can reduce the heat to medium-low.) Stir them and cook them for a couple of minutes, making sure they don’t burn.

Add the onions and herbs…

And stir them, cooking them for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to burn them.

Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower (which I didn’t mention above, but here it is!) Sprinkle them with salt and pepper…

And stir them around for about 3 minutes, allowing them to start to cook and get color around the edges.

Splash in some red wine (or, if you prefer, chicken broth)…

Then give the veggies one more stir.

Nestle the chicken into the veggies (use tongs to make room and move some of the veggies around as needed) and put the skillet into the oven for 25 minutes.

While the chicken and veggies finish cooking in the oven, toast some good sliced bread in a skillet with lots of butter. Set them aside and tell your family it won’t be long, and that they can stop banking their forks and their heads on the dinner table. (Hypothetically speaking.)

Pull the skillet out of the oven—yum! I wrestled with whether to do 400 degrees or 375; I think at 400, the veggies might get a little more of that roasted color on the outside…but just follow your heart! Ha.

Serve up helpings of chicken, veggies, and toast (and a couple extra sage leaves)…

Then drizzle on balsamic glaze (it’s sold in squeeze bottles in supermarkets now) and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. The balsamic glaze adds a little sweetness and acidic bite, which really wakes everything up. Delicious! And you can have fun with this: Use sweet potatoes, turnips, and other root vegetables…or you can go rogue and add bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, whatever you like.

Enjoy, friends!


Cuisinart DFP-14BKSY Custom 14-Cup Food Processor, Black

The Cuisinart DFP-14BKSY custom food Processor has an extra-large feed tube that holds whole fruits and vegetables. Features a 14-Cup work bowl, 4mm stainless steel medium slicing disc, stainless steel shredding disc, and chopping/mixing blade. Includes a spatula and recipe book.

Product Features

  • Includes stainless-steel slicing disc, shredding disc, and new chopping blade
  • 720-Watt large-capacity food processor with intuitive “on” and “off/pulse” buttons
  • 14-Cup lexan work bowl; extra-large Feed tube; small and large pushers
  • Spatula, instruction/recipe booklet; dishwasher-safe parts
  • Product built to North American Electrical standards
  • Note: shredding and slicing blades are not adjustable. Kindly reefer user manual before use

The Art of Escapism Cooking Cookbook Review

Lady and Pups is a blog by Mandy Lee an expat living in Hong Kong. But perhaps living is not the best word to describe it. She is suffering in Hong Kong, and before that, she suffered in Beijing. Cooking is her refuge and her blog is a chronicle of how she throws herself into cooking as an escape, hence the cookbook title, The Art of Escapism Cooking. In many ways, her blog and cookbook, are like any others — lots of great photography, impressive recipes and personal stories. Except for one thing, Mandy Lee is unapologetically negative and dark. She does not try and sell some happy vision — real or imagined. She wallows. The politics and pollution are major downers in China, I totally get that. Though I could be wrong, I am fairly certain she does not work outside the home. Her recipes are not the “quick and easy” type, but rather the type that relies on ingredients many Americans are unlikely to have on hand and take a degree of preparation and time that is at times daunting. That isn’t to say her recipes aren’t worth cooking or at very least, using as a jumping-off point. The book includes recipes for things like Poached Eggs with Miso Browned Butter Hollandaise, Buffalo Fried Chicken Ramen, Cumin Lamb Burger and Mochi with Peanut Brown Sugar and Ice Cream. Most of the recipes are very rich and indulgent, not terribly healthy and with very little to no vegetables. 

I spent quite some time looking through the recipes for something I could cook that wouldn’t take too much time or shopping and I ended on a recipe with a rather unpleasant name — Saliva Chicken Meatballs. As Lee explains the Chinese have a quirky sense of humor when it comes to naming food. I would say the name does not translate well into English. While I love the recipe, I don’t love the name. I also have to admit, I needed to adapt the recipe to make it work. Lee cooks the meatballs in a takoyaki pan. Surprise! I don’t have a takoyaki pan. She says you can broil them for 12-14 minutes, but I would certainly recommend baking them instead. If you broil them, they cook too fast on one side and have to be rotated to cook evenly, which is a bother. 
The meatballs are made from chicken and seasonings and no filler ingredients, the sauce is an emulsion of tahini, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar and ice. The finished dish also includes some of her ultimate chili oil but frankly, making two recipes was enough for me, so I substituted a chile oil I already had and that worked fine. Speaking of which, I would recommend adapting the recipes to your liking and using them for inspiration, rather than following them exactly as written Would I make this recipe again? Absolutely. While Lee says it’s a popular appetizer, I found with rice and some quick pickled cucumbers the tender meatballs with a boldly flavored and creamy textured sauce made a great weekday dinner. I look forward to using up the rest of the sauce soon.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: Lady and PupsInstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me as part of TLC Book Tours, this post does not include any affiliate links. 

Classic Persimmon Cookies

Persimmons are perhaps the most beautiful fruit of the fall, but have you ever wondered if they have a purpose other than table decoration? These classic persimmon cookies are filled with raisins, walnuts, and warm spices and are the exactly what I crave this time of year. This post was originally published in November of 2008…

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Chilly Mama Baking Soda Fridge and Freezer Odor Absorber & Freshener, Cool Mama Refrigerator Deodorizer Freezer Odor Eliminator Fridge Deodorizing Cleaner Household Kitchen Gadget Tools

Just fill it with baking soda and let her do the work.
Helps keep your fridge smelling fresh for months.
Eliminates odors so foods taste fresher longer.
Reusable and dishwasher safe, convenient to use.
Lovely figure shape, pleasing to the eye.

1*Chilly Mama Freezer Deodorizer
1*Package Box with instruction printed on

Product Features

  • Fun and creative refrigerator deodoriser: just fill with baking soda and let chilly mama do the work.
  • This helpful Cool Mom is an easy way to keep the inside of your fridge or freezer smelling fresh and clean for months, eliminates odors so foods taste fresher longer.
  • Reusable and dishwasher safe: no bottle brush or hand washing needed. This fridge odor absorber measures approximately 5.51″H x 5.1″W.
  • This ensures that your refrigerator, fridge, freezer and food are always protected from odors. Cool Mama is the ultimate addition to your kitchen cleaning supplies!
  • An excellent gift for mom, wife, homeowners, housewife, neighbors, friends on Mother’s day and other festival.