Hot Spiced Apple Cider

Written by Danny.

I am convinced that Spiced Apple Cider sold our house.  Sure we had a good agent, staged it pretty well, kept it tidy with 2 VERY young kids for almost 2 consecutive months – but the aromas of the cider simmering on the stove on one particular visit made it feel like somewhere you wanted to stay.  And they bought the house.

As you read about in Monday’s post, Aimee had some friends over to our house last Friday for a good cause, and I was doing my utmost to practice what I preach and be of help .  I both wanted to and needed to make something, so that I could more easily convince Aimee to get off her feet and rest.  And so our annual holiday favorite beverage, Spiced Apple Cider was made.

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Chocolate, Charity & Cheer: Tips for Hosting a Christmas Cookie Swap

I thought it would be hard to top last year’s cookie swap, but last weekend’s event surpassed all previous. It really was the first party of the season and put us all in the holiday mood for the three week countdown to Christmas.

As I washed the serving platters and tucked dozens of shortbread, biscotti and gingerbread into various tins to be frozen, I couldn’t help but think a cookie swap is the ideal holiday party to host.

There is minimal prep, aside from your baking, of course; you can get by with a quick house tidy, brewing a big pot of coffee and mixing together a punch. At a cookie swap there are no expectations for a big meal or buffet spread, and the event can be condensed into a few hours if you’re the type who likes to be in bed with a book by 10PM.

ALL photos by Angela Chin of Tim Chin Photography

On the other hand, if you jump at any chance to entertain, the cookie swap can be expanded into a full-fledged Christmas party, as mine was. We sipped hot mulled cider (recipe coming on Wednesday!) and homemade eggnog while we sampled at least twelve varieties of cookies.

After the swap, we pulled up chairs around our long wooden table and I served up mini Tourtiere hand pies, shrimp cocktail and vegetable crudite to counteract the sugar rush. Small ramekins of French Onion Soup followed and for a few minutes there was hardly a word spoken around the table as we spooned it up.

I could try and blame Pinterest for encouraging me to pull out a few stops for my party, but I really just love to feed people. Still, Pinterest helped me come up with a few super simple decorating and menu ideas, which you can check out on my party board.

So what goes into a cookie swap and how do you make it great? Here’s the breakdown.

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Weekend Links: Home for the Holidays Winners!

What a week! Home for the Holidays has been a blast, and I wish I could hand out prizes to each of you out of gratitude for being such loyal, encouraging readers.

I had such fun introducing you to great companies like Breville, Edgeware and Magimix, and highlighting their exceptional products.

It was also great to be able to spotlight a charity close to my heart, and reading through your responses to my Q&A on traditional holiday food was so fun and interesting. I had no idea so many of you enjoy Monkey Bread on Christmas morning! I think I’m going to have to get on that bandwagon…

Giveaway Winners!

Now, I’m anxious to announce the winners of the three giveaways that Simple Bites featured over the past few days, so let’s get right to it without further ado…

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Giveaway: The Barista Express by Breville

**This giveaway has ended. Check back on Sunday for the winners!**

We’re back for another Home for the Holidays giveaway, and this time, the home wannabe barista (Danny) is going to introduce the last item of the week here on Simple Bites!

Aimée’s family introduced me to coffee-culture, and it is pretty much here to stay.  When we hosted a family reunion for them, we went through between 3/4 lb and 1 lb of coffee each day.

To get our coffee fix, we’ve used drip machines, single serve drip, French press, a cheap espresso machine that conked out after roughly 300 shots (2 months in our home), and more recently, a robust espresso machine on loan from my brother. We can finally return that one (thanks, bro) because we will be using our latest caffeine dispensing machine for a while.

If the title of this post did not clarify what it is, here’s a thousand-word description for what we’re giving away:

Yep, today you could win The Barista Express from Breville! It is my “early” Christmas present from Aimée this year.

Valued at $699, this espresso maker will replace 2 items on our counter as the coffee grinder is built into the machine, just one of the nifty features it boasts. Read about how our mornings have gotten a lot better, as well as how to win The Breville Express for your own!

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Home for the Holidays: Do you have a traditional holiday food?

To get some audience participation, if you will, for our Home for the Holidays week, we thought we’d ask YOU to share about what the holidays are like in your home. On each site, we’ve got a question we’d love for you to answer!

Share your thoughts here in the comments, and then hop to the other sites to jump in on the other holiday-related discussions.
Most of us associate certain comfort foods with the holidays; that’s just how it is. It may be your grandmother’s plum pudding or mom’s bread stuffing, but it conjures up feelings of homecoming, no matter where you are.

My background is British, so there is always shortbread and mince tarts aplenty.  My mother also makes an Italian inspired fruitcake called ‘Panforte’ every year. One of the highlights of the season is getting a thick wedge of it delivered in our Christmas package.

Since starting a family of our own, there are a few dishes Danny and I like to have around every year over the holidays. Tourtiere is a must ( I just made and froze several yesterday!), as is the German fruit and nut loaf, Stollen, for toasting on Christmas morning. We also like our homemade eggnog, with a grating of fresh nutmeg on top, thank you very much.

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