Weekend Links: Eat Well, Spend Less Wrap-Up

The countdown to Christmas is really on now and we’ve got plenty of tips for the festivities ahead.

This month in the Eat Well, Spend Less series we took a look at simple holiday entertaining and how to keep the budget under control. Seven contributors weighed in on topics such as easy appetizers, do-ahead breakfasts, and stocking up on essentials.

I’m sure you’ll find this recap helpful as you head into holiday mode!

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Savory & Sweet: Two Holiday Brunch Menus

Hosting a holiday brunch has never been so attractive for me now that my friends and I have small children. It’s just a much more enjoyable get-together than having an evening party and trying to keep the little ones up late – or put them down early.

Instead, we socialize in the late morning while the children are rested and then in the afternoon, after the guests leave, our household naps! It is the holidays, after all. Later, we can have the evening to ourselves, or invite our friends who are not quite yet in the kids stage over for a simple cocktail hour.

Brunch can be as simple as brewing a pot of coffee, baking a batch of the best muffins ever and setting out a bowl of clementines. It should be fun and enjoyable to plan, which is why I’ve given some suggestions below for simple sample menus with plenty of do-ahead tips.

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A Simple Holiday Cocktail Hour (Recipe: Cookies and Cream Cocktail)

Written by Kristen.

This time of year it is so easy to get caught up in the elaborate and forget all about the simple. We host a much anticipated holiday party each year with friends but to be honest with you, although I love our holiday party, I have really been struggling with how I was going to fit it in with our already crammed packed schedule.

Our party is typically big, with a full dinner, dessert, cocktails, presents and games… but it was more than I felt like I could handle with life being so crazy this year. So instead of completely cancelling the party, I had to simplify.

A simpler option to a full holiday party is to host a simple holiday cocktail hour. This way we can still see our friends, celebrate the season together, yet I won’t be so stressed about losing an entire day devoted to planning and preparing for a big party.

Our friends are also busy, so they have welcomed the opportunity to socialize yet not eat up an entire evening. [Read more…]

Eat Well, Spend Less: Homemade Substitutes for Holiday Favorites

You may have noticed the barrage of holiday food items in supermarkets. The towers of garishly colored fruitcake, rows and rows of pale frozen shrimp rings, and battalions of eggnog cartons.

As most of these once-a-year items tend to be highly processed and contain unrecognizable ingredients, they never make it into my shopping cart. That is not to say I don’t enjoy eggnog, butter tarts or other Christmas-time specialties, I just try to make them myself, from scratch, when I can, because they taste that much better and I know what they contain.

Take fruitcake, for example. My mother’s recipe (which was also her wedding cake) contains ingredients like fresh lemon zest, dried figs, currants and apricots, apple cider and rum, and freshly ground spices. It’s a confection that makes you weak in the knees and momentarily lose your train of thought.

My mother’s Christmas fruit cake simply cannot be compared with a commercial product, which – in a perfect example of mystery ingredients – contains those candied ‘fruits’, fruits that are actually pieces of dyed rutabaga. Yep, turnip.

We know homemade is better, so why spend a penny of your Christmas budget on less than stellar products when, with a little planning, you can make many, if not all of your favorite holiday foods?

Today I’ve rounded up some recipes for traditional and popular holiday foods. As we all come from different backgrounds, cultures and family traditions, my favorites may vary from yours. Feel free to share your holiday eats, recipe notes, or personal must-haves in the comments!

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Weekend Links: Holiday Baking Edition

Happy Holidays and Happy Baking!