The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Holiday Appetizers

Coming at you today with one final “best of” roundup before Christmas – today we’re talking all about the holiday apps!

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte | CaliGirlCooking.com

Before I get too carried away with CGC’s most popular holiday appetizer recipes, I wanted to give you a quick update on our sitch: We’ve been away from our home in SB for a week and a half now, escaping the smoke to save our precious baby girl’s lungs. As I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon, things aren’t looking great for our beautiful oceanfront town. Winds have been terrible since early this AM, which when combined with the very dry conditions in our area have made for a massive amount of evacuations in our area. Although our home is not in an evacuation zone yet, we are certainly surround by them and at this point can only keep our fingers crossed that the firefighters get SOME sort of break in the weather ASAP.

A couple of days ago it had been looking like we might be able to come home tomorrow, but now we’re second guessing that and thinking we may be up here in the Bay Area until Christmas. It’s certainly not what we had envisioned for our first holiday with the babe and the pup, but we’re trying to keep our heads up and make the most of this extra time we get to spend with our families. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as best as possible on social media but, in the meantime, let’s all get our mind off of things with some delicious apps. Shall we?

Without further ado, here are my 15 most popular holiday appetizers!

All-Dressed Party Mix | CaliGirlCooking.com

1. ALL-DRESSED PARTY MIX
2. BEST EVER WINTER VEGETABLE PLATTER
3. CREAMY MUSHROOM PATE

A fresh baguette is the perfect accompaniment to this Creamy Mushroom Pate.

4. FIVE INGREDIENT SMOKED SALMON AND CUCUMBER ROLL-UPS
5. PUMPKIN WALNUT PATE
6. BUTTERNUT SQUASH CROSTINI WITH CRISPY PROSCIUTTO AND SAGE

Curry-Rosemary Roasted Mixed Nuts | CaliGirl Cooking

7. CURRY ROSEMARY ROASTED MIXED NUTS
8. GOAT CHEESE, APRICOT AND PISTACHIO CROSTINI WITH HONEY
9. HOMEMADE ROSEMARY AND OLIVE OIL CRACKERS
10. HOMEMADE WHOLE WHEAT CRACKERS – TWO WAYS

Homemade Whole Wheat Crackers: Two Ways! | CaliGirlCooking.com

11. PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED PEARS WITH CREAMY BLUE CHEESE
12. ROASTED CAULIFLOWER HUMMUS WITH ROSEMARY AND GARLIC
13. BACON WRAPPED STUFFED DATES
14. SPICED ROSEMARY BAR NUTS

Portobello Hummus | CaliGirlCooking.com

15. PORTOBELLO HUMMUS

What are your favorite holiday appetizer recipes? Share them with me in the comments below!

The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Cocktails and Mocktails

TGIF!

Caribou | CaliGirlCooking.com

Boy, what a week it has been. We’re still seeking refuge from the SoCal smoke up north, at least for a few more days, and I’m writing this at the eleventh hour so I’m going to keep things short, but I couldn’t let you kick off the second to last weekend before Christmas without the promised roundup of CGC’s Top 15 Cocktails and Mocktails!

So, without further ado….

A Festive Cranberry Clementine Martini is the perfect easy cocktail to whip up all through the month of December!

1. FESTIVE CRANBERRY CLEMENTINE MARTINI
2. CARIBOU
3. WINTER SPICED VANILLA EGGNOG

Cranberry Ginger Mule | CaliGirlCooking.com

4. CRANBERRY GINGER MULE
5. SPARKLING CITRUS VANILLA PUNCH
6. SPARKLING POMEGRANATE PARTY PUNCH

Sparkling Pomegranate Party Punch | CaliGirlCooking.com

7. ALMOND MILK EGGNOG HOT CHOCOLATE
8. PEAR, POMEGRANATE AND BOURBON PUNCH
9. SPIKED PEAR CIDER

A mug of Spiked Pear Cider is the perfect hot toddy for the holidays.

10. APPLE CINNAMON “FAUX-MOSA”
11. BOILO (A TWIST ON THE HOT TODDY)
12. FROM-SCRATCH SLOW COOKER SPICED APPLE CIDER
13. WARMING GINGER TEA WHISKEY COCKTAIL
14. BOOZY SPICED HOT APPLE CIDER

Citrus Vanilla Sparkler | CaliGirlCooking.com

15. CITRUS VANILLA SPARKLER

Okay, now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite holiday cocktails and mocktails! Leave ’em in the comments below!

The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Holiday Baked Goods

Wow, what a week it has been!

Chocolate Panettone | CaliGirl Cooking

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you probably already know that I am currently up at my parents’ house in Santa Cruz with Baby Raia avoiding the smoke and fires that have descended on our poor little city of Santa Barbara since last Monday evening. We stuck it out until last Thursday, but when the air got so bad that I could see and smell the smoke seeping into our house I knew it was time to take baby girl and her precious new lungs and hit the road.

As of right now our home is not in an evacuation zone, although many of our friends’ and family’s homes, including my brother’s have been under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders for going on five days now. Santa Barbara has turned into a virtual ghost town and looks alarmingly apocalyptic. Who knows how long we’ll be up north breathing in as much fresh air as we can (a bit of the smoke has even made its way up here, but nowhere near as bad as it is further south), but in the meantime we’re trying to pass the time with getting as ready for Christmas as we can, which includes baking up a ton of delicious holiday goodies!

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

That being said, since my normal schedule has been thrown for a bit of a loop, I thought it would be fun to spend this week rounding up some of my top holiday recipes in different categories. Today I’ll be sharing my most popular holiday baked goods, Friday we’re talking all things cocktails (and mocktails!) and on Monday we’ll go for appetizers. I had a ton of fun looking through my archives to put these lists together, and I know you’ll find at least one thing you’ll want to add to you holiday cooking and baking list in the next two weeks!

So, without further ado, I bring you The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Holiday Baked Goods.

These Chocolate, Butterscotch and Coconut "Grutch" Bars are a holiday favorite and are so easy to make!

1. CHOCOLATE, BUTTERSCOTCH AND COCONUT GRUTCH BARS
2. CHOCOLATE PANETTONE
3. CHOCOLATE DIPPED CRANBERRY WALNUT BISCOTTI

Homemade Caramel Covered Scotch Kisses are the perfect holiday gift.

4. HOMEMADE CARAMEL COVERED MARSHMALLOW KISSES
5. PEPPERMINT BARK BROWNIES
6. SAVORY PROSCIUTTO-SAGE-GRUYERE BREAD PUDDING
7. CHUNKY MONKEY CINNAMON ROLLS WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE
8. CHOCOLATE BRIE DESSERT PIZZA WITH ALMOND ORANGE SHORTBREAD CRUST

Chocolate Brie Dessert Pizza with Almond-Orange Shortbread Crust | CaliGirl Cooking

9. PEPPERMINT CHOCOHOLIC COOKIES
10. WEEKEND HAZELNUT STICKY BUNS WITH DATE CARAMEL
11. BUTTERSCOTCH APPLE OATMEAL COOKIES WITH BOURBON GLAZE
12. PUMPKIN POPOVERS

A batch of easy Pumpkin Popovers fresh out of the oven and ready to be eaten!

13. SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE BABKA
14. CREAM CHEESE-Y PUMPKIN PIE
15. CRANBERRY CHOCOLATE CHUNK MUFFINS WITH CHOCOLATE STREUSEL

What are your favorite baked good recipes for the holidays? I’d love to give some a try while we’re on our #evacuationvacation so leave the links or recipes below!

Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti

Continuing on with the sweet holiday treats today!

These Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti are fantastic dipped in coffee or a hot toddy!

And these Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti live up to every expectation you may have about what a holiday cookie should be. The flavors meld together perfectly to form a delightful cookie that tastes just as good with your morning coffee as it does with an evening hot toddy in front of the fire. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, that’s for sure, and should make it on to your holiday baking list ASAP.

To be completely honest, this version of Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti was my own attempt at copying a similar biscotti recipe from back in my Hawaii days. When I was living there and working for an event production company, my boss’ wife would make THE most insanely delicious biscotti every Christmas. I distinctly remember how all of us in the office would impatiently await that first day sometime around Thanksgiving when my boss would bring in the first batch of the season, which would subsequently get devoured before the workday was through.

I don’t remember the exact ingredients (and the specific recipe was a highly coveted family secret), but they were something along the line of chocolate, dried cranberries and either walnuts or almonds. What I do remember is that, after the initial crunch, they just melted in your mouth and were the perfect accompaniment to any warm beverage that was suitable for dunking.

These Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti are the perfect holiday cookie to add to your baking repertoire.

So this year, I decided I needed to make my best attempt at making my own version, and let me just say that although they’re not exactly the same as my boss’ wife’s version, they’re pretty darn close and just as tasty.

If you’ve never made biscotti before, there’s no need to be intimidated. The biggest difference from other cookies is the baking technique, since you bake them off twice – once as a log (almost in the shape of a loaf of bread) and then again after you slice the log into the appropriate biscotti-sized pieces. Being the chocolate-lover that I am, of course I had to go ahead and dip the biscotti in it, but if you’re not such a big fan you could easily omit that step. Or, if you still want some chocolate but don’t feel like tackling the dipping process, go ahead and throw some mini chocolate chips into the dough! Tons of possibilities.

Set out a plate of Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti at your holiday get-together and guaranteed they'll be gone in an instant!

The other thing I love about these Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti is that the recipe yields quite a few, which makes it perfect for all of your holiday cookie plate gifting needs. Since I was making all my holiday recipes back in September before baby, I threw Ziplocs of these into the freezer and am just now getting into the stash. They’ve held up beautifully (and we’ll see if there are any left for me to gift people 😉

Whether or not you decide to make Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti for your friends or you decide to keep them all to yourself, you definitely need to give them a shot. Because who doesn’t need a delicious cookie they can pull out of the freezer and enjoy at a moment’s notice during this crazy holiday season?

Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti are the perfect holiday cookie to bake up this season.

These Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti are fantastic dipped in coffee or a hot toddy!
Print
Chocolate Dipped Cranberry Walnut Biscotti
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins
 

This classic cookie gets fancied up for the holiday season with tart cranberries, toasted walnuts, and a generous coating of chocolate. 

Course: Dessert
Servings: 2 dozen
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 14 ounces dried cranberries
  • 20 ounces chopped semisweet or dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on low until combined.

  5. Add the nuts and cranberries.

  6. Roll the dough into six 10-by-1 ½-inch logs. Arrange the logs on the prepared baking sheets and bake until golden, about 30 minutes. 

  7. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes. With a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal, about 2/3-inch thick.

  8. Bake the slices, cut side up, for an additional 18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool.

  9. Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in the top of a double boiler until smooth. One at a time, dip one end of the biscotti into the chocolate mixture.

  10. Place dipped biscotti on a baking rack over a large piece of parchment paper (to catch drips.) Let chocolate set and transfer biscotti to a resealable container or bag. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch

Because every holiday season needs a delicious punch recipe!

This Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the perfect batch drink to serve a crowd!

I mean, am I right? We are, after all, in the season of entertaining, and nobody wants to spend their entire dinner party mixing up individual cocktails for every single guest. Nope, you need a delicious batch cocktail recipe that is festive, features some of the best flavors of the season and is super easy to throw together. Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you that this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the answer!

If you know me, you know that I’m a hard-core sparkling wine lover. In fact, if I had to choose just one type of alcoholic beverage to enjoy for the rest of my life, it would be bubbles. There are so many different varieties, from dry to sweet, pink to star-bright, incredibly effervescent to just a light spritz. I love them all (enjoyed in the appropriate time and place) and ESPECIALLY enjoy them at this festive time of year. Doesn’t everyone?

Which is exactly why I decided to use sparkling wine as the base for this uber-tasty Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch. It lends the perfect celebratory touch to the other flavors of orange, lemon and vanilla, and has the added bonus of not being sooo high octane that your party guests will have one glass and end up needing to call a cab home. It’s the perfect drink for a crowd and comes together with no fancy bar tools or ingredients. My kind of holiday cocktail!

A pitcher of this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the perfect drink to serve at your holiday get-together.

As far as what type of sparkling wine to use, feel free to use your own creative license here based on your personal tastes. I opted for a medium-quality dry cava (Segura Viudas to be exact) because that just happens to be our “house” sparkling wine. (Yes, we have one. Hey, my husband’s in the liquor industry!) I also don’t like my drinks too sweet, but if you’re entertaining a more sweet wine-loving crowd, by all means go for something with a little residual sugar to it.

You’ll just need a few more ingredients besides the sparkling wine to make this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch a tasty reality at your holiday get-together:

Fresh orange and lemon juice, both of which should be incredibly easy to obtain, especially at this time of year.
Grand Marnier to add a little extra kick.
Simple syrup (which you can easily buy if you’re too lazy to make.)
And last, but not least, some vanilla extract!

See, I told you it was easy 😉

A glass of this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the perfect, easy cocktail to serve party guests.

You’ll want to make sure your sparkling wine and citrus juices are chilled ahead of time, but when it comes time for your guests to arrive, you’ll literally need less than 5 minutes and a tall pitcher or punch bowl to throw this Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch together. I don’t know about you, but that’s my kind of party recipe! Cheers to a wonderful holiday weekend!

This Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch is the perfect batch drink to serve a crowd!
Print
Sparkling Citrus Vanilla Punch
Prep Time
5 mins
 

A fun, festive punch recipe featuring the best winter flavors including lemon, orange and vanilla. Perfect for your next get-together!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 5 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 750mL bottle sparkling wine
  • Orange and lemon wheels, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl. 

  2. Garnish with orange and lemon wheels and enjoy!