Archive of ‘Holidays’ category

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 |

| 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 |

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 |

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies |

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 |

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies |

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 |

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies |

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 |

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies |

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.

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 |

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 |

| 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!)!


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 |

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 |

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies |

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 |

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 |

Mulled Wine (Glühwein)| Pass the Cookies |


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? ;)

thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese

What do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

In my opinion, the only lunch option on the day after Thanksgiving should be some form of leftovers. For the traditionalists, there is the leftover plate – simply the same plate of food they made the day before, reheated. For those looking for a slight twist on the traditional leftover plate, there is the classic leftover sandwich, or bread topped with everything from the day before. I’ll admit, I like one traditional plate of Thanksgiving food after the big day, but after that it gets a bit boring. This year, we’re taking it a step further than the turkey sandwich with a Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese. Turkey, cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon mustard, melty gruyere cheese, and golden butter toasted bread come together for a sandwich that rises high above other family members’ boring leftover plates.

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

We’ve done Thanksgiving leftovers in breakfast form with sweet potato biscuit sandwiches, in case you are looking for a whole day worth of leftover recipes, but gooey, melted cheese on warm toasted bread with all of the Thanksgiving toppings is hard to resist for Friday lunch. Granny Smith apples get slightly softened by the heat, but still add a little crunch and balance out the cranberry sauce perfectly and the Dijon provides a flavor you may not have tasted the day before.

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

Maybe you plan on shopping all day for Black Friday? This is a great welcome home sandwich that those non-shoppers can make for you. It is quick, easy, and delicious, and uses up tasty leftovers too! The best combination.

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

Filled with turkey, sweet cranberry sauce, tart apple slices, dijon, and gruyere, this Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese is easy, delicious and perfect for your day-after lunch. | Pass the Cookies |

Repurposed leftovers forever!

Thanksgiving Leftover Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich, but is easily multiplied

½ tablespoon butter
2 slices hearty bread
2-3 slices of leftover turkey
5 thin slices of granny smith apple (about ¼ of the apple)
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (can also use sharp white cheddar cheese)
2 ½ tablespoons leftover cranberry sauce
swipe of dijon mustard, to taste

I’m giving you exact measurements here, but feel free to adjust the measurements and make this how you like it!

Spread butter on the outside of one slice of bread. Spread cranberry sauce on the inside of one slice of bread and mustard on the inside of the other slice. Top both slices of bread with grated cheese (putting cheese on both sides will hold the sandwich together), then top one side with the turkey and apple slices. Put the two halves together.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, place your sandwich in the skillet, with the buttered bread facing up (so the bread that was not buttered is now in the hot buttered skillet). Toast until golden, then flip and toast until golden on the second side and the cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie

It’s the week before Thanksgiving, aka Thanksgiving menu prep week! Start rolling your pie dough, because you won’t want to miss the two pies I’m sharing this week, starting with a chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie!

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Like most people, our family’s Thanksgiving meal is pretty much the same every year. Though we stick to a traditional dinner menu, the desserts can change. Some years we have a fall cake (this one, this one, and this one are in the running this year), but no matter what, there is always a pie of some sort. Pumpkin pie and apple pie are the usual culprits, but my mom’s chocolate chess pie and a bourbon pecan pie we have made for years are my two favorites. Earlier this month I thought, if chocolate chess and bourbon pecan pie are my favorites, why not combine them for the best of both pies?! The mash up that resulted is amazing!

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Growing up, chocolate chess pie was a staple in our house when guests would come. It is rich and delicious and always receives complements. The first year I spent Thanksgiving with Will’s family while we were still dating, I brought two of my mom’s chocolate chess pies to share. They were quickly demolished and I was instructed that whether or not I could make it to the next family gathering, those pies were welcome. I now bring them whenever I visit and it is so fun to see the pie that has so many memories in my family creating new holiday traditions and memories in Will’s family.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Our other go-to pie is chocolate chip bourbon pecan pie, which was actually one of the first recipes on the blog (you can find it in the recipe archives, but don’t judge the photos from those early days). Filled with chopped pecans, and topped with pecan halves, the pie has a great texture. You can truly taste the bourbon in the pie (another reason it is so tasty), but if that’s not your thing, just cut back on the amount you add.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie is an amazing combination of two already wonderful pies. The rich chocolaty goodness from the chocolate chess pie pairs beautifully with the toasted pecans. The gooey pecan pie filling meets the thick, custard-like filling of the chess pie, resulting in a beautiful marriage of the two textures – a pie that is not too thick, but still holds its chocolaty shape when cut. A large dollop of freshly made whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream are the only garnishes you need for the picture perfect plate of Thanksgiving pie.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie | Pass the Cookies |

Pecan pies are a showstopper on any dessert table, and with a chocolate chess pie base and a hint of bourbon, this chocolate chess bourbon pecan pie is sure to be a hit.

Chocolate Chess Bourbon Pecan Pie
Makes 2-3 pies, depending on the size/depth of your pie dishes
3 pie crusts (one is optional for decorating)
1 chocolate chess pie recipe (recipe follows)
1 bourbon pecan pie recipe (recipe follows)

Chocolate Chess Pie
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) butter
3 ¼ ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
2 ¼ tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bourbon Pecan Pie
4 cups pecan halves, toasted
6 eggs
1 ½ cups dark corn syrup
6 tablespoons sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3-6 tablespoons bourbon, based on your preference (I like closer to 6)

Pie Crust*
2 ½ cups flour
pinch of salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup ice water, or more as needed

*This pie crust recipe makes one crust. If you want to make all three, triple the recipe and split it into 3 equal-sized balls, or make three recipes separately. This pie crust is delicious, but no shame if you use the convenient frozen pie crusts – it’s a busy season after all!

My pie dishes are pretty deep, so this recipe only makes two pies. If you are using shallow pie dishes it might make three, in which case make sure you make three pie crusts, and add one more for decorating, if you wish.

Make the pie crust
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter and toss in the flour mixture to coat. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is the size of walnut halves.

Make a well in the middle of the butter-flour mixture and add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time. Mix after each addition just until the dough comes together.

Separate the dough into two equal balls. Roll out the dough balls into small rounds, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill well before rolling to their full size (about 12 inches) for baking.
When you are ready to make the pies, transfer your rolled-out pie dough to a pie dish and carefully work it into the edges. Fold under any dough that hangs over the edge of the pie dish and crimp the edges as you go around the pan. Wrap the prepared pie plates in plastic wrap and freeze while you prepare the pie fillings.

Make the chocolate chess pie
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over very low heat.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the sugar. Stir the egg and sugar mixture into the melted chocolate and butter. Mix in flour, corn syrup, milk, and vanilla. Pour the pie batter into the prepared pie dishes.

Make the bourbon pecan pie and assemble pies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coarsely chop 1½ cups of pecan halves. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs. Stir in the corn syrup, sugars, butter, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Mix in the chopped pecans. Slowly pour the pecan pie filling on top of the chocolate chess pie filling. Top the pies with the reserved pecan halves.

Bake about 50-60 minutes, until the pies are set and no clumps come out on a toothpick inserted into the center. If the crust starts to get too brown, cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil. Cool the pies on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Store the pies at room temperature or in the refrigerator, tightly covered in plastic wrap.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag me (@hopewoodhouse) on Instagram or leave a comment below so I can follow your baking adventures this holiday season!

s’mores bars

Happy 4th of July week! Let’s celebrate with some s’mores bars!

S'mores Bars |

How do you celebrate the 4th of July holiday? Are you a slow-cooked ribs and barbeque kind of person? A hamburger and hotdog cookout master? A family brunch participant? There are so many ways people celebrate this patriotic holiday, and no matter how or where you celebrate, these s’mores bars should be part of your celebratory meal.

S'mores Bars |

S'mores Bars |

I love dessert bars. They are easier to transport than cakes and cupcakes, easier to serve and portion than pies, and the perfect addition to a lunch potluck or dinner cookout. These s’mores bars are cleaner than the messy bonfire s’mores, but have the same great flavors, just slightly elevated. A graham cracker shortbread crust and fluffy marshmallow meringue topping sandwich a layer of rich, fudgy brownies. One bite delivers the flavors of all of the layers at once.

S'mores Bars |

S'mores Bars |

I love making s’mores themed desserts, but sometimes am wary about whether they will be able to replace the original campfire favorite. For these, I wondered if the ratio was off, if I should have made the graham cracker shortbread crust thicker, or if there was too much meringue. I assembled the final product with my family around (for the double whammy of sharing, and getting opinions). We cut a sliver off of the edge, making sure to include all three parts. I waited for the first bite reactions and opinions. Immediately, everyone went back for another bite and a bigger slice, raving about the bars as we did. Success.

S'mores Bars |

S'mores Bars |

Make these tonight for your 4th of July celebration tomorrow, and maybe leave a sliver for yourself at home ;)

S’mores Bars
Graham Cracker Shortbread Crust
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 graham crackers
6 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

¾ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons hot water
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Marshmallow Meringue
3 large egg whites
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tarter

To make the graham cracker shortbread crust:
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown and smells nutty. This may take anywhere from 5-10+ minutes, depending on how cold your butter was to start with.

Pour the butter into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until the butter is solid (about 30 minutes). The butter does not have to solidify until it is hard, just until it feels solid but soft to the touch. You can prep the rest of the ingredients or the brownies while the butter is solidifying.

In a food processor, grind the graham crackers into fine crumbs. Measure out ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons. You will have some graham cracker crumbs left over.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a square baking pan (8×8 or 9×9) with two sheets of parchment paper, one on top of the other in different directions so the entire pan is covered.

Scoop the solidified brown butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter on medium speed for about 15 seconds to make it smooth and break up any pieces of solid butter. Add the sugar and mix on low speed to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium and cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 4 minutes). Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to fully bring the ingredients together.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the batter is almost homogenous.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, salt and graham cracker crumbs.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together but is still shaggy (about 1 minute). Try not to mix much past the shaggy dough stage. With your hands, bring together the dry ingredients that did not get fully incorporated.

Press the dough into the prepared pan and bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges should be slightly golden.

To make the brownies:
In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa, melted butter, and hot water. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and mix well. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until everything is just combined.

Spread the brownie batter evenly on top of the graham cracker shortbread crust. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until just set. A toothpick will not come out clean, but the bars shouldn’t jiggle. Let cool completely before topping with the meringue mixture

To make the marshmallow meringue:
Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Set it over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cook, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of a stand mixer and pour in the vanilla and cream of tarter. Beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment until firm. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy, 8 to 10 minutes.

Spoon the meringue over the top of the cooled brownies and then spread out with a spatula. Create peaks by swirling the spatula and lifting it off the meringue. If you have a kitchen blowtorch, brown the meringue evenly. Otherwise, place the meringue-covered bars under a preheated broiler for about a minute to create a golden brown top (this is what I did). Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. Cut and serve!


Graham cracker shortbread crust slightly adapted from Cookie Love, brownie recipe slightly adapted from Melanie Makes.

memorial day brunch

A few years ago, our family started a tradition of making a big brunch together in Memorial Day. As many traditions do, it started out as just an easy day to get together and make brunch because we were all off of work or home from school, not as something we intended to be an annual event. But, the next year we got together for brunch again, this time branching out with our dishes. From then on Memorial Day brunch became an assumed tradition and we love it!

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

We have a few go-to brunch recipes for any time of the year, including coffee cake (heavy on the crumb topping), scones (chocolate chip and/or berry), fruit salad, and the typical eggs and bacon. We try to switch up the breads from time to time so we don’t get in a rut. This year, we suggested different breakfast items beforehand and voted to narrow down which ones we ultimately made. After many heated debates about whether cinnamon rolls or sticky buns are better, and if we should put blueberries in the scones if we also put them in the lemon loaf, we decided on our Memorial Day brunch menu.

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

I am sharing our menu below, with comments, so you can prepare for your own great brunch. Some of our favorites would be a great to include on Father’s Day!

Lemon Lemon Loaf – We adapted the recipe from Baked cookbook. Every recipe we have tried from this cookbook has been good (the pumpkin chocolate chip loaf is our go-to in the fall!). Note that one recipe makes two loaves, but it is easily halved. We skipped the glaze and added 1½ cups of blueberries to the flour mixture before mixing it with the wet ingredients. I would definitely recommend adding blueberries if you make this – they break up the texture and add a great flavor. The loaf was very dense and extremely moist, but tasty.

Ultimate Cinnamon Buns – This recipe was from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. These cinnamon buns took a lot of time to make and the result was only okay. The filling was too sweet for our taste and overpowered the flavor of the buns themselves and the glaze. For the amount of time it took to make them (we started the night before), I expected the result to be amazing. I admit that I’m not a wizard with yeasted dough, but I think I did it right this time. It could have still been a mistake on our end with kneading or mixing, but they weren’t that wonderful. I am still willing to make homemade yeasted cinnamon buns, but I wouldn’t spend my time on this recipe again.

Summer Fruit Salad – This one is self-explanatory. We combined berries and melons and added a few sprigs of mint to the top. It was fresh and delicious, as always.

Mixed Berry Scones – As I mentioned in the cinnamon swirl scone bread post, brunch is not complete in our house without some type of scones. The flavors can vary, and chocolate chip scones are a staple, but in the summertime mixed berry scones are just as delicious. We used our favorite recipe from Foster’s Market and added blueberries and chopped strawberries to the flour mixture. If you haven’t had a good scone, these will change your mind. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is another one of our favorite sources for recipes. Foster’s Market is a local cafe and market and we love trying to make recipes in the book to replicate the delicious items in the shop.

Scrambled Eggs and Bacon – You can’t have brunch without some sort of eggs or breakfast protein (at least not in our house!). This is one of the easiest parts of brunch, but is so tasty!

Brunch is my favorite meal and I’m always looking for great new dishes! What is your favorite brunch item?!

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