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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Veggies & Greens Salad Mix
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
-Essie + Hannah
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:
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:
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.
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bag hibiscus tea
- 1/2 tbsp honey
- Heat juice, cider, water and cinnamon to a simmer.
- Add tea bags for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove tea bags.
- Add honey.
- 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.
- 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)
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.
- 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
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Sift together all crumb topping ingredients except butter until well mixed.
- Add butter and incorporate with hands or fork until crumbly. Set aside.
- To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave.
- Add the flour, lemon juice, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
- Pour over the apples and stir until the apples are well covered.
- Dump apples into a baking dish (pie plate, 8×8, etc).
- Crumble the topping over it.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes, until apples are bubbly and topping is toasty.