Friday Faves: Host a Christmas Coffee

Here we are, back again with another nudge (whack?) to host people in your home. Do you hate us yet? Look, we’re both introverts, but we still love hosting people. There’s something about bringing people together, feeding them, and giving them an overabundance of caffeine, that really makes a house feel like a home. So, we’re back with more suggestions.

The Christmas season is full of amazing recipes, no one’s on a diet, and everyone’s in party mode. So grab a couple of your favorite pals and have a ladies night with dessert, coffee, and great conversation. Coffee and dessert are an especially great combo if an entire meal seems overwhelming.

We’re maybe a little bit obsessed with coffee. Both of us have an obscene number of ways to make coffee: espresso maker, Chemex, pour-over, moka pot, and percolator, to name a few. We love good, strong coffee to match our highly-opinionated personalities. It’s a killer combination, just ask our husbands. (Actually, maybe don’t.)

So drag out your favorite, most high-maintenance way of making coffee and make a fun dessert! We suggest this pear-cranberry galette, these cookies, or a store bought chocolate cake. We aren’t picky about the sort of sugary yumminess you serve with coffee, and we can guarantee your guests won’t be either.

We also would like to begin to beg you all to tag us on the ‘grams if you use one of our recipes. Pretty please? #commonsensekitchen #helpusout #makethefood #isitgood #arewecrazy (don’t hate us)

xoxo & Merry Christmas!

Hannah + Essie

 

Linzer Augen

While I was growing up, my family didn’t do much Christmas decorating during December. We saved that for Christmas Eve. However, we did bake up a storm in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Gingerbread, sugar cookies, “Linzer Augen” and a half dozen other traditional Austrian baked goods. Linzer Cookies come from the city of Linz, Austria which happens to be where I was born. So they’re a little bit of my heritage in sugar form.

I’ve adjusted my mom’s original German recipe to be in American measurements instead of grams. They’re easy and yummy. The trickiest part of these cookies is making sure they don’t burn. The bake time is 7-10 minutes, and ideally they should just have a hint of brown around the edges. Keep an eye on these stinkers, they’ll get dark quicker than you’d expect. Other than that, I can’t think of a way you could mess these up.

Turn on some tunes and cozy on up for a fun time filled with baking and delicious smells.


cookies-6

  •  Ingredients:
    • 2 1/3 c. flour
    • 1 1/4 c. almond flour or finely ground almonds
    • 1/2 c. sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 pinch salt
    • jam, currant jam is traditional, but raspberry is common in the States
    • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
  • Directions:
    1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl if needed.
    2. Add the egg and beat.
    3. Meanwhile, combine together the flour, almonds, and salt.
    4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix.
    5. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour.
    6. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    7. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out until it’s about 1/8″-thick
    8. Use a 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter (or drinking glass), cut out cookies.
    9. Cut out a small circle or other shape out of the center of half the cookie rounds
    10. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    11. Gather the scrap dough, roll, and repeat.
    12. Bake all of the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Keep a careful eye on them after 7 minutes as they can go from lightly browned to dark in less than a minute.
    13. Let them cool for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack
    14. Spread  1/2 tsp of jam on solid cookies.
    15. Top each with one of the cutout cookies to make a tiny cookie-jam-cookie sandwich.
    16. Sprinkle all the cookies with powdered sugar to finish.

Prost! Mahlzeit!

Essie

Pear-Cranberry Galette & Maple Ginger Glaze

What are your “Christmas flavors”? Is there anything your family used to make or buy that just tastes like Christmas? For me, it’s spiced pears.

Every Christmas dinner my grandmother used to make a cold, spiced pear soup as our appetizer. I used to hate it when I was little because of the pear strings that always lurk beneath the calm, nutmeg-sprinkled surface. But now I just love it and it marks the Christmas flavors for me.

When I was trying to come up with a great Christmas dessert, I knew I had to make a galette. I’ve loved making these recently because it’s all the satisfaction of a pie without as much of the crust stress.

In order to cut out that crust stress even more, just grab the frozen, pre-made pie crusts from Trader Joe’s. It’s on our list of Christmas TJ faves over here. I’m really picky about pie crust, but Y’ALL. These are delicious. I suggest rolling these out a little more until they’re quite a bit thinner, as they’re VERY thick the way they come and that takes away from the filling.

Filling:

  • 6 small Bartlett pears, peeled & chopped
  • 1/2 C fresh cranberries, halved
  • 2 Tbls honey, slightly heated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

I TJ pie crust, rolled out until it’s 1/8″ thick (ish).

Maple-ginger glaze:

  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

All right, you found me out. It’s not a glaze, but it’s delicious. I just didn’t know what else to call it.

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together all the filling ingredients. Since the ripe pears are very delicate and you don’t want the filling to be total mush, heat up the honey a little until it’s quite liquid. Mix gently with a spoon until all fruit is covered in the honey + spices.

Put the maple syrup and ginger in a small bowl and microwave it for 20 seconds.

Seriously. Microwave it.

Place the rolled-out dough either in a pie dish or on a lipped baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. The fruit will cook down and probably spill out of the dough, so make sure you’ve got something with a lip on it. The parchment paper will make sure that even though the galette is surrounded by sticky fruit liquid, you’ll still be able to get it off the baking dish.

Place your fruit filling into the center of the pie crust until you have 1″ to 1 ½” of dough all around. You may have some filling leftover! Pull the edges of the dough up around the filling and pleat it like you’re recovering a chair.

Bake it on 350 until the filling is bubbling and the crust is starting to brown. Brush it with butter and leave it for another 3-5 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Take it out of the oven and let it sit until it’s slightly cooled. Then you can take it out of the baking dish and plate it.

Drizzle the maple-ginger glaze over it and serve!

Serves: 4 (or like just you, but like I’m not gonna tell you how to live)

Egészségedre!

Hannah

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Trader Joes (Christmas edition)

Over here at CSK, we really love Trader Joe’s. From the prices to the variety of items, it just doesn’t get any better. During the holidays it can be hard to find the time to figure out decorations, make cookies, etc. so we thought we’d share some of our favorite Trader Joe’s shortcuts.

  1. Pie crust
    • Making your own pie crust is (though worthwhile) very time-consuming and most pre-made pic crusts taste like all the preservatives they have in them. But let us sing the song of the Trader Joe’s premade pie crust. They’re flaky; they’re subtly sweet; they’re crumbly. It’s the perfect “buttery flaky crust.” (Anyone? Anyone?).
    • Tip: make sure you roll it out yourself to make it a little thinner. These pie crusts can be pretty overwhelming to a galette or a two-crust pie if you don’t thin them.
  2. Macarons
    • As we said, who has time to make fancy desserts for all the Christmas parties? Not us. But thankfully ol’ faithful TJ’s has so many great premade desserts. These are one of Essie’s all-time favorites.
  3. Veggies & Greens Salad Mix
    1. We love all of their salad mixes, tbh, but this one takes the cake. The crunchy veggies with the sweetness of the dried pear and the saltiness of the pistachios is a combination worth fighting for. And don’t get us started on the honey-ginger dressing. We also like to add a little sharp cheddar crumbled on top for an extra boost of protein.
  4. 3-Cream Brie
    • Good cheese can be SO expensive. We used to groan when we saw photos of beautiful charcuterie boards, because we knew it’d be around $50 to make even the smallest one. Not so, thanks to TJ! You can get this creamy, sexy brie for so cheap. Grab a baguette and some dry Italian salami and it’s the prettiest little appetizer you’ve ever seen.
  5. Eucalyptus
    • Balsam is great. We love evergreens, really we do, but sometimes you just want something a little different for your Christmas wreath or centerpiece. TJ’s has beautiful eucalyptus for cheap and when combined with a sprig of red berries it looks delicately festive.
  6. Chocolate Mousse Cake
    • Really this should read: CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE. CHOCOLATE. MOUSSE. Want us to say it one more time? No? Ah, ok. We can chill. But really, we don’t think this one needs any explanation.

There you have it: our top six favorite shortcuts for this month. What are your favorites?

Happy cooking!

-Essie + Hannah

 

 

 

Kinderpunsch on St. Nikolaus Day

Happy St. Nikolaus Day!

St. Nikolaus and I had a rocky start to our friendship. In southern German and Austrian homes, St. Nikolaus comes for a visit, bringing gifts in exchange for songs and kisses.

My first encounter with him at our door was when I was two. My poor father, who was in fact the man underneath the St. Nikolaus costume, still tells the story about how “pure terror” filled little Essie’s eyes when he came in the door. Even with his fake white beard removed, this is still the best picture my mom was able to snap:

533682851.933896 copy

In case you’re worried I always rewarded my parents’ efforts to create special traditions and memories for their children with fear and ingratitude, I offer these pictures that later years were more successful and smile-filled:

533682724.077737 copy

However, since I don’t live with my parents anymore and I have yet to convince Dave, my husband, to dress up as an Armenian Bishop, our St. Nikolaus Day celebration will be more low key. It’ll include some popcorn, Kinderpunsch, and cozy Advent candles.

Kinderpunsch is a hot beverage served in steaming mugs at German and Austrian Christmas markets. This non-alcoholic alternative to Glühwein is a mixture of cider, juice and tea.

Three years ago, Dave and I spent Christmas overseas with my Austrian relatives and visited as many of the markets as possible. We made a point to buy a Punsch at each one and kept the mugs as souvenir. Every Advent I love unpacking our little mug collection and making this Kinderpunsch recipe as a cozy tradition.


december-5

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 1 cup apple cider
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 bag hibiscus tea
    • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • Instructions:
    1. Heat juice, cider, water and cinnamon to a simmer.
    2. Add tea bags for 2-3 minutes.
    3. Remove tea bags.
    4. Add honey.
    5. Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes. You can just keep it on the stove quietly simmering while it fills your home with amazing smells.
    6. To serve, fill into cozy Christmas mugs and sip with loved ones, preferably with a lit candle or two or ten.
  • Serves: 2 (I highly recommend tripling or quadrupling this in a huge vat and enjoying it every evening this week)

Prost!

Essie

 

Apple Crisp

Just a month ago, we were drowning under one of Michigan’s biggest apple crops. My mother sent me home with buckets and buckets from her tree. We made more apple sauce, pies and crisps than we could possibly eat. We may have even been a little sick of apples, though we didn’t want to admit it because they were so good.

Finally, we threw out hands up in the air and just started freezing them. My mom has one of those handy dandy peelers that does it all for you. We’d get them all peeled, cored, and cut, stick them in bags and freeze them. This is by far my new favorite way to process fall apples. It’s been so nice to grab a bag or two and make baked apple goodies whenever I want.

Seasonal cooking means we use what currently grows and is ripe. However, we also put away some of that bounty to enjoy later. This apple crisp is ideal for apples that aren’t perfect or pretty to look at, like previously frozen ones, seconds or just a little older.

I’ve been perfecting this recipe all fall, so it truly is the best. All goopy and bubbly and just the right amount of sweetness without overshadowing apples’ natural flavor.


  •  Ingredients:
    • Crumb topping:
      • 1/4 cup flour
      • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 1/2 tsp baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 1/3 cup butter diced into small chunks
    • Apple filling:
      • 4-6 cups apples, peeled and cut
      • 4 tbsp butter
      • 1 tbsp flour
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
      • 1/4 cup sugar
      • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Sift together all crumb topping ingredients except butter until well mixed.
    3. Add butter and incorporate with hands or fork until crumbly. Set aside.
    4. To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave.
    5. Add the flour, lemon juice, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
    6. Pour over the apples and stir until the apples are well covered.
    7. Dump apples into a baking dish (pie plate, 8×8, etc).
    8. Crumble the topping over it.
    9. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until apples are bubbly and topping is toasty.

Mahlzeit!

Essie