sparkling pomegranate punch cocktails

We are almost halfway through December – are you holiday partied out yet?

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

I have been to a few parties and gatherings, and have a few more on the docket before Christmas, but I’m feeling good about the pace so far. Some years my introverted self gets overwhelmed with all of the holiday get-togethers. I have found that, while it can be more work to host a party, I sometimes prefer being the host to being a guest. When I host a party, I’m guaranteed to know everyone I invite, which takes away the stress of making small talk with strangers, and even if I have to go back and forth to the kitchen, I often feel more relaxed in my own home than I do somewhere else.

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

As a hostess, I love serving a pretty, delicious, hands-off punch during the holiday season so I spend less time refilling drinks, and have more time to visit with friends and family. This sparkling pomegranate punch satisfies all of those categories.

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

The pomegranate juice and orange slices create a beautiful, jewel-toned punch, while the delicious orange ginger simple syrup gives it a little tang and just the right amount of sweetness. With a splash of rum, the pomegranate punch is party ready!

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Another perk: this recipe easily multiplies, so you can make enough for a crowd of any size!

To grab the recipe, head over to Lexi’s blogIf you make your own sparkling pomegranate punch, I’d love to see it! Tag me (@hopehwoodhouse) on Instagram so I can follow along on your culinary adventures!

link love

This week has been, and will continue to be crazy. I’m starting to feel more and more exhausted as it goes on, and almost put off writing this post, but there are some great links that I want to make sure are shared this week.

link love 12.8.2017photo via Pickles and Honey

First, Time Magazine’s person of the year: the silence breakers. These are the women who shared their sexual harassment and sexual assault stories, despite the taboo the world put on these conversations, and the danger they felt threatened by for multiple reasons. These stories need to be read, heard, shared, and spread.

Are you sprucing up your home for Christmas? This is a great post on how to hang greenery, spruce or not ;) I haven’t done much decorating at all (see above: crazy week), but I’m excited to start soon. I already have wreaths to hang on our bookshelves, which was one of my favorite touches from last year.

Have you tried a reverse bucket list? I love the idea! I agree that bucket lists can make me feel like I haven’t done enough, but I imagine a reverse bucket list would make me proud of all that I have already accomplished.

Whole Foods has the best cheese selection in our area, but at a cheaper price point and still a good selection, Trader Joe’s is often where we pick up nicer cheeses. This article on the best cheeses at Trader Joe’s will be so useful over the holidays, when cheeseboards are on the mind of every entertainer. We have had many of the cheeses on the list (the goat milk brie is the one I used in the baked brie appetizer earlier this week!), and they are great options for nice, tasty cheeses that don’t break the bank.

These look amazing. I would be way too ambitious to say I will make these this weekend. Next weekend, though? There may be eggnog cinnamon rolls on next Saturday’s menu.

Have a happy weekend!

2017 gift guide for the baker

I truly love making these gift guides each year. They are filled with wish list items, fun ideas that I sometimes end up using in my own Christmas gifting, and items that I am passionate about that I want other people to have the chance to use too. This list is filled with some of all of those, but mostly with things I am extremely passionate about and want to share with the world! I have (and love) some version of almost every item on this list, and have received most of them as gifts. As a recipient, I can tell you that they all make great presents, and as a (mostly) food blogger, I can tell you they make great tools. Below, you’ll find my thoughts on some, which I would recommend for novice bakers and casual chefs vs. those who are more experienced in the kitchen, and where you’ve seen some of these items on the blog before :)

Gift Guide for the Baker | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

| Bake From Scratch Magazine Subscription | Medium Cookie Scoop |
| Goldtouch Nonstick Baking Pans | KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Oven Mitts (1, 2) |
| Peppermint Extract | Gold or Copper Measuring Spoons | Gold Whisk | Walnut Turner |
| Marble Board | Farmhouse Batter Bowl | Tartan Silicone Spatula |
| Christmas Cookie Cutter | Odd-Sized Measuring Cups |

Bake from Scratch Magazine Subscription – I’m sharing the best cookies I have made all year (that is not an exaggeration) so soon, and the recipe was based on a cookie in the Bake from Scratch Holiday Cookies edition. The photos in these magazines are beautiful and I always add tons of recipes to my “to try” list when I flip through them (you can tell it’s good when the pages are covered in flour and vanilla stains). I just got the Holiday Cookie edition this year, but loved it so much that a subscription to this magazine is on my gift list this year (hint, hint). Another great option in this category is a new cookbook. There are so many great ones that have come out this year, and you can match this to their personality.

Some of the most used items in my kitchen are the Williams Sonoma Goldtouch nonstick half sheet pans, the OXO medium cookie scoop, my beloved KitchenAid stand mixer, and a good spatula (these are some of my favorites).

Williams Sonoma Goldtouch baking pans are awesome. Food just slides right off them! These are great for a baker or cook at any level, as you can use them for everything! I prefer the half sheet pan because I can use it for everything from roasted veggies to hundreds of cookies.

The KitchenAid was a Christmas/wedding present to Will and myself from my mother-in-law the Christmas between our engagement and our wedding. I’m pretty sure it was the item on our registry that I hoped for the most, and, besides our everyday plates and flatware, it is probably the next most-used wedding present we received. It is a large gift, but one that anyone who loves to bake should have. It comes in 20 colors (isn’t this almond color gorgeous?), and there really is no comparison to its performance.

I use the OXO medium cookie scoop for almost all of the drop cookies I make and it has been a huge time saver! This, plus the small and large cookie scoops were gifts as well, and make perfect stocking stuffers for the bakers in your life. You have seen them in blog pictures here and here :)

We have spoontulas and spatulas with wooden and stainless steel handles from Williams Sonoma and have opinions about all of the types. Will likes using the stainless steel handles, while I don’t mind either. I do NOT like the spoontula with the stainless steel handle because the silicone head comes right off the handle, often right in the batter while I’m stirring! I haven’t had any issues with the regular spatula with a stainless steel handle or the either of the wooden handled spoontulas and love using all of those (I’m pretty sure the silicone is attached differently to the wooden handles than it is to the stainless steel handles, which makes it more sturdy). Besides the stainless steel spoontula (booo), I love these and would definitely recommend them as a step up from the cheap spatulas you can find elsewhere.

Behind those most-used items, next in my rotation are my odd-sized measuring cups (LOVE THEM!), this marble slab, and sturdy measuring spoons. Odd sized measuring cups are amazing amazing amazing. My parents had them in our kitchen when I was growing up and I don’t think I could go back. They are so useful and make great gifts, because, while most people have regular measuring cups, they probably don’t have odd-sized ones!

The marble slab isn’t something that I use every day, but it is great for rolling out cookie dough and bread dough, or serving an amazing cheese or appetizer board. You see it in lots of blog photos, as it also makes a great background when you don’t have a marble countertop ;)

Some items that are fun to gift to anyone, novice or experienced, are a pretty bowl, baking and cooking utensils, oven mitts, gold and copper measuring spoons or cups, cookie cutters, and fancy extracts. I love filling an oven mitt or a batter bowl with a bag of cookies and one or two of these smaller, pretty items. One of my gifts to my parents and my mother-in-law each year is a bag of frozen cookie dough balls paired with a new baking item (I’ve given a few Goldtouch baking sheets and cookie scoops in the past few years), to give them the benefit of homemade cookie dough in easy, convenient form. This also works well for a hostess gift!

Do you have any baking items you love?!

2017 gift guide for him

Is it just me, or is it always difficult to shop for guys? I searched high and low for husband, brother, and dad-approved gifts for the men in your life this year and I hope this gift guide for him can help give you some ideas for the guys.

Gift Guide for Him | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Yeti
Yeti’s have been around for a while and I have heard many people sing their praises, but was reminded at how crazy hot or cold they keep your drinks when my dad brought one on a car trip and left it in the car. It was still the same temperature when we remembered it a few hours later! At a decent price-point, these make great gifts for the most difficult guy on your list.

Quarter-Zip Sweater
Will recently re-discovered a quarter-zip in his closet that he received for Christmas last year and has been wearing it non-stop! I think it is safe to say that this one is husband approved. Also, everyone looks good in a quarter-zip.

Dopp Kit/Travel Toiletry Bag
I have bags on bags on bags when I travel – a bag for makeup, a bag for toiletries, a bag for my nighttime routine, a bag for jewelry, etc, etc. While I may have more stuff to carry than the men in my life, I think a Dopp kit (toiletry bag) would be just as useful for those things that seem to wander around the suitcase (looking at you, electric razor), or those items that often get left behind (hello, toothpaste). If you really want to go above and beyond, stock it with travel sized items so he can just grab and go and doesn’t even have to load it up each time.

Technology: Chromecast, Fire Stick, Echo Dot
People are often shocked when Will and I say that we don’t have a tv, much less cable. While many people aren’t quite ready to give up their televisions, Chromecast and Fire Stick both make it a little easier to cut the cable cord, and for a piece of technology, the prices are great!. We have already grabbed one of these for someone on our list (don’t worry, he won’t read this ;)) and I’m excited to set it up! The Echo and Echo Dot are both such hot items right now, too, and for good reason! We know multiple people who have one of these and everyone we talk to absolutely loves them. The best part? Echo Dot is only $30 on Amazon right now! Grab it while it is on sale!

Tech Gloves
I think everyone should have a pair of tech gloves. I got Will a pair of these back in college and they have been so useful! No more freezing fingers while you take one glove off and on every time you want to use your phone. These are stylish and still well priced.

Duffel Bag
Years ago, my mom gave Will a duffel bag for Christmas. A few years later, his mom gave my brother a great duffel bag. Both Carter and Will use their bags all the time (way more often than they thought they would) and love them! Bonus: if you gift this for Christmas they will conveniently be able to carry all of their other gifts home ;)

Fun Socks
Socks go on almost all of my gift guides every year. I don’t think you can go wrong when you gift a pair of socks. Fun socks are almost never something I think of getting for myself, but they can sometimes bring a little hidden joy to an outfit. Not into the crazy colors and patterns? A pair of good wool socks is always appreciated on cold winter days.

Big Ice Molds
“Big ice” is in heavy rotation with Will’s family. His uncles and brother love one sphere of “big ice,” as they call it, to bring the perfect chill and water content to their whiskey-gingers, without watering down the drink too much, like regular cubed or, heaven forbid, crushed ice would. There are always a few spheres in their freezers, waiting for the perfect drink. This is a small, but fun and super useful gift for the cocktail lovers.

Good luck to all and to all a good night!

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baked brie with mulled wine-soaked fruit

Remember that delicious mulled wine we made last week? We’re repurposing it today for a stunning, but amazingly easy holiday appetizer: baked Brie with mulled wine-soaked fruit.

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Around the holidays, I find myself running around like crazy, trying to do everything I possibly can with every group under the sun. Next Saturday alone I am meeting up with five groups of people for five different events from 9am-11pm. I know it is a crazy schedule, but I love all of the people I get to see and have fun at every event, which makes it difficult to cut back. But doing everything and being everywhere can be exhausting, and leaves me with no time to prepare. That is one reason I love this baked Brie so much – while it looks fancy, you can have this app ready in 15 minutes!

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

The short timeline, but impressive display makes it perfect for holiday parties and potlucks. Since the baked Brie steals the show, I often don’t even pair it with other cheeses, which makes this fancy cheese board so much more affordable than other elaborate hors d’oeuvre spreads. Fast, fancy, easy, and affordable? We’re winning the holiday party game this year.

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

I love a good melty baked Brie, and it is an added bonus when the accouterments are soaked in spiced wine and absolutely delicious too. Each bite of warm, creamy Brie pairs so well with the spices from the wine-soaked fruit. It is like a holiday match made in heaven. I don’t know why I never did this before, but you can bet I’ll be doing it again before the season is over.

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

If you make this recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag me (@hopehwoodhouse) on Instagram so I can follow along on your culinary adventures!

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit
1 wheel of Brie
1 cup mulled wine, homemade or store-bought (I found some at Aldi!)
1 apple or pear, peeled and diced
1/8 cup whole cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the mulled wine until just simmering. Add the apple or pear and cranberries and let them cook for 10-15 minutes, until they are wine-colored. The apple or pear will be tender when you poke the pieces with a fork, but shouldn’t fall apart. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the Brie.

Spray a baking dish or small pie plate with nonstick spray. If possible, use the dish you will serve the Brie in, to prevent having to transfer hot cheese. Place the Brie in your prepared dish and bake for 10-15 minutes. The Brie should be close to bursting, but should still be in tact when you take it out of the oven. Use a slotted spoon to gently place the mulled wine-soaked fruit on top and to the sides of the baked Brie. Top with a sprinkle of brown sugar and a sprig of rosemary, if desired. Pair with crackers or bread and serve immediately.

If you have leftover fruit, or extra that doesn’t fit on your spread, you can store it in the fridge for a week to use for other delicious meals, appetizers, and drinks.

december goals

Happy December! This is the case for most people, but I always find that December is always a fun, but very crazy month. It is easy to do too much, go to fast, and burn out before Christmas gets here. I am already exhausted from everything leading up to December, so I am trying to combat that stress and burnout that could happen by narrowing down my December goals and focusing on only a few things well.

2017 December Goals | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

November Goals:
– Vote! – Ugh, I researched and tried to go, but when I got home from work (via the bus) my car wouldn’t start so I couldn’t get to the polls :( The next few days consisted of getting this car problem fixed.
– Celebrate 10 years with Will!!!Yes! :) We didn’t do anything big, but enjoyed spending the evening together before a busy weekend.
– Make a new pie recipeYes! This and this.
– Drink at least 80 ounces of water a day – I did well at the beginning of the month, but fell behind when travel and Thanksgiving came around.
– Go on a walk/run on nearby trails (maybe on the Pumpkin loop, since I missed that last month) to enjoy the last of the fall leaves and weatherDidn’t make it to the pumpkin loop, but I did enjoy and take in the fall weather and pretty leaves.
Continue to exercise outside even as the weather gets colder and the amount of sunlight gets shorterYes. I’m always shocked by how early and how fast it gets dark this time of year.
– Stretch at least 3 times a week (I got a charley horse (so painful!) twice last month and I’m hoping to stretch more to try to prevent that happening this month.) – Moslty. I was doing really well at the beginning of the month, and even until thanksgiving week, but have been slacking since then.
Use my time efficiently at work and at home – less mindless checking and refreshing Instagram, no Instagram after 10pmI did well with this one again this month. I’m taking this off the monthly goals list and making it my rule going forward.
Acknowledge at least one thing I’m grateful for each day (I do this every few days, and should be doing this everyday, but I figure Thanksgiving month is a good time to start this habit!)This was such a good exercise. I kept my gratitude list, numbered with the days of the month, next to my bed, and wrote down what I was grateful for each night before I went to bed. It kept me focused on all of the blessings we have, rather than the stress of the day.
Finish our “coffeeneuring” adventures strong (more on this soon!)Yes! In case you missed it, you can find the post on this here)
Spend time with family and rest over ThanksgivingTo say that we rested is a stretch, but we spent time with lots of family and had one of the best Thanksgivings yet.
Plan/purchase most of our Christmas giftsYes! Only a few left to get!

December Goals:
– Get all of our Christmas shopping done by December 17 (we’re so close already!)
– Continue to exercise and practice self-care as the season gets crazy. This includes getting more sleep than I have been getting recently.
– Post all of my gift guides by December 12
– Decorate for Christmas so our home is available for planned or impromptu holiday gatherings
– Meal plan again – we have been going out of town so much that our meal planning fell to the side on weekends, which left us scrounging during the week. I want to get back to planning our meals again because it always makes the evenings less stressful.
– Spend meaningful time with both of our families for Christmas celebrations

Are you simplifying your goals this month to create a more relaxing and meaningful holiday? What are your tips? I need all the help I can get!

2017 gift guide for the hostess or entertainer

Next up on our list is a gift guide for the hostess and the entertainer. These are all small gifts that are easy to bring with you to the holiday parties you inevitably have scattered throughout December. Hostess gifts can be a fun opportunity to branch out and find a unique or luxurious item that your friends usually wouldn’t buy for themselves. Since they are often small, you can find something great without breaking the bank.

Gift Guide for the Hostess

| cocktail napkins | holiday oven mitt 1, 2,3 | pretty matches | reindeer candle snuffer | candle |
| milk frother | brass candlesticks (more modern ones here) | sugarfina box |
| cheese markers | pretty plate 1, 2 | box of tea forte | serving board | ceramic pour over |
| monogrammed mug | reindeer bottle opener |

I love combining some of these fun items with something homemade, to make the gift more personal. The host and/or hostess put so much time and effort into cleaning, cooking, prepping and decorating, so I like to do anything I can to make the gift a fun, but thoughtful one. Some of my go-to hostess gifts are a pretty plate filled with homemade cookies (shortbread is the easiest and so tasty!), a unique cutting board topped with a homemade loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread, or a round of scone dough and a bag of locally roasted coffee to make the next morning a little easier. While you could definitely gift any of these items on their own as a beautiful hostess gift, I’m going to do something different here and give additional ideas on how you could pair some of them with other items, sometimes homemade, sometimes not, to make them even more special.

1. clever cocktail napkins + a fun mixer or a bottle of punch for them to use for cocktails.
Many entertainers love a fun bar cart set-up. I love these cute cloth cocktail napkins on their own for the cocktail loving hostess, but it would be even more fun and thoughtful to grab your favorite mixer, or even put a bow on a bottle of flavored simple syrup, like this autumn simple syrup. Not only do they have a pretty new item for their bar set-up, but they also have a fun new drink on hand.

2. fun oven mitt + a Christmas cookie cutter and your favorite holiday cookie recipe.
Giving a cherished Christmas cookie recipe always seems so personal and loving, and is quick and easy to do even if you don’t have time to make cookies. If you don’t do a cookie recipe, just make sure it is something that is baked so they have a chance to use their new oven mitt!

3. reindeer candle snuffer + candle or cute matches.
A candle is a great hostess gift on its own, but if you are looking for a fun addition, pair it with this chic reindeer candle snuffer or a fun set of matchers. For a unique version of this gift, just give the candle snuffer and pretty matches. They’ll have something cute to start the fire and something cute to put it out. ;)

4. pretty pour over + locally roasted coffee.
I didn’t know a pour over brewer could be so pretty. This would be the perfect simple gift for your entertaining friend who also loves good coffee. Our favorite local coffee to give and receive is Counter Culture Coffee from Durham, but you may have coffee roasters that are closer to you. If you gift Counter Culture, they have a limited time winter blend called “Iridescent”. Stumped on where to find local (or non-local) coffee beans? Try asking your favorite local coffee shop, or pop into a Whole Foods in your area, as they often have a good selection.

5. milk frother + breakfast pastries
As the host or hostess of a party that goes late into the evening, the last thing you want to do after cooking, hosting, sending everyone off, and cleaning up until the wee hours of the morning is get up and make breakfast the next morning. A charming milk frother and some croissants or scones makes a great gift for the busy entertainer at any party you attend. Breakfast treats take the pressure off of them the next morning, and the milk frother is something they can get great use out of long after the holiday party season is over.

6. candlesticks in their style + taper candles.
It is always nice to get a gift you can use right away. Including inexpensive taper candles with candlestick holders is like giving a kid an electronic toy and batteries. White candles are always classic, but if you know their style it can be fun to find a new color (like these pretty fuchsia ones or Kelly green ones).

7. cheese picks + your favorite cheese, a bottle of wine, or some fancy crackers.
This pairing would also work for a cheese board. For those of us who aren’t cheesemongers, picking cheese from the vast selection can be difficult. It is always nice to get fancy cheese recommendations that you can trust from foodie friends. Pass along cheese markers or a cheese board with your favorite swanky cheese, or even just a list of recommendations, to your entertaining friend who likely has lots of opportunities to eat or serve them.

8. a pretty cutting or serving board + a loaf of quick bread.
My sister first told me about this idea when she wrapped up a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread on a cutting board to bring to an out-of-town friend she visited earlier this year. Since then, my mom and I have both taken up the idea, getting pretty, but inexpensive, cutting or serving boards from Home Goods or Target and switching up the type of bread. If you don’t have time to bake anything, Grab a quick bread mix from the store to include with the board (Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix is almost as good as the homemade stuff – just add chocolate chips and no one will ever guess it is from a box).

9. monogrammed mug + tea or a pack of hot chocolate mix.
Christmas mugs are my favorite :) They always make me so happy. Want to know a cheat for this gift? If you are gifting hot chocolate to multiple people, buy a large tub of hot chocolate mix and portion it into cellophane bags (or Ziploc bags with the zipper cut off). Tie them up with a bow and a candy cane and it couldn’t be easier or look fancier.

10. a unique dessert plate + homemade Christmas cookies.
This is one of my go-to gifts during the holidays. It is perfect for neighbors, co-workers, hostesses, babysitters, pet-sitters, you name it! A pretty or unique plate is something people don’t often buy for themselves, but can always use for decoration or for serving treats when friends come to visit, and homemade cookies give it a thoughtful touch.

I hope this gives you some new ideas for fun hostess gifts to give this season!

2017 gift guide for her

It is the time of year to make your list and check it twice! I have a few gift guides to share over the next few weeks to help you find a great gift for everyone on your list. Today, we’re kicking it off with the gift guide for her!

Gift Guide for Her | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

While everything in the collage, and just about everything in the slider below, is under $100, with lots of under $50 options, there are items across lots of categories and price ranges to provide ideas for what to get all your favorite girls: your sister, mom, bff, or maybe yourself.

2017 Gift Guide for Her | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

| pom beanie (similar here and here) | striped pouch | earrings | velvet top | leggings |
| tassel charging keychain | diffuser (sold out – find here and here) | velvet sneakers |
| striped pajama set | weekender bag | socks (sold out – similar here) | gloves |
| leopard card case | vest | plaid scarf (similar here) |

The items in the photo are some of my favorites, but there are lots more ideas in the slider below, too!

I love all of the cold weather accessories that are out right now. Cute glovespom pom hatsscarves (plus a less expensive version), and fun socks are great gifts for any girl in your life. It is often easy to find cute, affordable options for these, too (two of the beanies linked are under $15!)!

(more…)

mulled wine (glühwein)

With the last Thanksgiving dish washed and the slow start back to work and school today, the holiday season has officially begun! This is my favorite time of the year. Lights twinkle on houses and trees, holiday parties begin, and there is so much festivity all around.

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Recently, I was looking back at some photos from my study abroad semester in college (which I can’t believe was five years ago!) and remembered that some of the best memories I made on my trip were during this time of year. The town I lived in in the Netherlands was only an hour from the German border, and only a few hours away by a direct bus to the German town of Bremen, which was known for it’s Christmas market. As one of our last excursions of the semester, my travel buddy, Hannah and I decided to take a day trip to the Bremen to explore the small, historic town and see the vast Christmas market.

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

We wanted to make the most of our day, so we took the first bus out and had return tickets for one of the last busses of the day. At the time, we thought it was a great plan. It wasn’t until we got off the bus in Bremen and realized we would have to stay outside in the frigid northern Germany December weather all day that we regretted our decision. We popped into shops and coffee shops throughout the day, waiting for the market to open and trying to break up our time outside with some warmth. By the time nightfall came, we were freezing cold, but the beautiful market stands stretching on and on, and the lights hanging overhead in all of the streets made the cold wait worth it. As we walked around the stalls, Hannah had been to Christmas markets back home near Chicago and exclaimed that we needed to find some glühwein to warm up our cold hands and bodies. As a naïve young American southerner, I had never been to a Christmas market, and definitely didn’t know what glühwein was, but was intrigued and willing to try anything that would warm my fingers. She explained that glühwein is a typical German version of mulled wine, or red wine heated with cinnamon sticks, anise, cloves, oranges, and sugar.

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

At the Christmas market, there were stands all over selling glühwein with signs saying “mit schuss,” meaning the mug of warm spiced wine was served with a shot of rum. We chose a stand that served the drink in clay souvenir mugs and watched as the vendor prepared a large basin of what we later found out was feuerzangenbowle, another form of glühwein where a rum soaked sugar loaf is set on fire and drips down from a metal grate balanced across the pot that contains the warm mulled wine. The rum and melted sugar drip down into the hot, spiced wine, and provide a show along with an amazing drink. With just one sip we were both in a better mood. The wine was warm, sweet, and spiced – perfect to sip on under the Christmas lights after a long day in the cold.

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

 

Ever since that trip I have wanted to recreate the delicious glühwein we had that cold, festive night. Tasting this homemade version brought me right back to that beautiful German Christmas market.

Mulled wine is a wonderful drink to have throughout the season for gatherings with small groups of friends, or parties with lots of people gathered around. It is so simple (just throw everything in the pot and heat!) and is easily multiplied for whatever size crowd you expect. Heating the wine gets rid of some of the alcohol, so add a shot of rum to each glass if you want this to be more of a cocktail.

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)
1 bottle dry red wine
2 cups apple cider
¼ cup brown sugar
1 orange, quartered and juiced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 ½ teaspoons whole cloves
Rum, one shot per serving, optional

Combine all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until hot, but not quite simmering. You don’t want to let it simmer, otherwise the alcohol will burn off. Serve immediately in glasses filled with cinnamon sticks and orange slices.

 

p.s. can you spy me in the top photo? ;)

girls’ mountain weekend

Before November gets away from us, I want to share one of the most fun parts of October, both this year and last year. In my post on my quick trip to NYC I touched on the drastic difference between the mountains and the city, which was especially noticeable after visiting them only nine days apart.

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

We started the weekend off with brunch at a quaint coffee shop “in town.” I always find it so funny that we “go into town” when we visit. That is such a novel concept for me – the girl who takes public transportation to work. After brunch, we took our time meandering along the winding Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in the beautiful leaves and the fog rolling between the mountains. We hopped off in one of the towns along the parkway and stopped at a corn maze, which has likely already changed over to be a Christmas tree supplier. The whole weekend was what I imagine to be the quintessential fall mountain weekend: slow breakfast, Blue Ridge Parkway drives with changing leaves, and a corn maze to top it off.

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

It was so special to be able to spend some girl time together before this lovely long-time friend had her baby (welcome, baby Fletcher!). It was such a fun, and much-needed relaxing trip in the midst of an otherwise busy time. In this time of daily texts, fawning over the new life that our friend is nurturing, and giving thanks for all we have, I am more grateful than ever for these lifelong friends of mine. These friends who have been and always will be there for me, who support me and encourage me, and who lift me up and pray for me when I need it most. We have memories together dating back to when we were toddlers, and needless to say, have gone through lots of life changes together, but this sweet season of encouragement through our life changes is one of the best ones.

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