holiday

Sage and Rosemary simple syrups

Sage and Rosemary simple syrups

Every so often, I invent or read about or discover a food thing that I then become obsessed with. This week, friends, that thing is simple syrup.

Simple syrup is a fancy term for sugar water, and it’s typically used to flavor cocktails or other drinks like soda and coffee.

My simple syrup kick started around Thanksgiving, when I had a bunch of sage in my fridge that needed to get used up. I decided to steep it in a standard simple syrup mixture, which is typically 1 part water to 1 part sugar.

My grandma's Holly Wreath cookies

My grandma's Holly Wreath cookies

My grandma on my dad’s side was known for a couple Christmas cookies, and this was one of them — “wreath cookies,” as we called them. It’s one of my dad’s favorites, so we made it in our house growing up, too. I vividly remember eating the soft, pale green sweets out of an old cookie tin my grandma always seemed to have on hand this time of year.

Cranberry sauce alternatives: Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Almond Brittle, Cranberry Relish and Acorn Squash

Cranberry sauce alternatives: Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Almond Brittle, Cranberry Relish and Acorn Squash

It shouldn’t surprise you that I prefer to make cranberry sauce from scratch each Thanksgiving.

Normally, cranberries + sugar + some citrus in a saucepan does the trick, but this year I came across another way to cook the bright red berries, and I’m hooked. This first recipe calls for roasting them in the oven until they are nice and jammy, then topping them with a crunchy almond topping, which adds some good texture.

And if you’re not a huge fan of cranberry sauce, this second recipe is a good compromise: Use a cranberry relish to top other items, like this roasted acorn squash.

Prosciutto Green Bean Bundles With Crispy Mushrooms, plus other green bean recipes

Prosciutto Green Bean Bundles With Crispy Mushrooms, plus other green bean recipes

It is gray, gloopy and so seductive we only serve it once a year.

Its ingredients could withstand a nuclear blast.

And it has endured, when other dishes made up entirely of canned products have fallen away.

It is, of course, the green bean casserole.

I wrote about the casserole this year, my thoughts turning to the dish after its creator Dorcas B. Reilly died in October at 92, six decades after she created the dish for Campbell Soup Company’s test kitchen.