With Gabrielle away at college and our nest decidedly empty, this Christmas season has required adjustment. We’ve managed by introducing new traditions into the fold. We have two Christmas trees, instead of one. The advent calendar is filled with love poems instead of scavenger hunt clues. We’ve hosted old friends in small gatherings whom we haven’t seen for far too long. And every day, I have opened my Instagram and taken a look at the cookie recipe posted by the editors of the New York Times’ cooking section (@nytcooking).
They post a different one every day in December, and, if you check each day, it’s like an advent calendar of its own, with the photos beautiful enough to feel like a gift.
Of course, I haven’t made any — in part because I’m waiting for Gabrielle to come home, but in part because I’ve realized that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate to feel festive. With William’s full endorsement, in fact, I’ve cooked more simply than I ever have before and it’s reminded me of the beauty of a 15-minute recipe.
Before I get to serious cookie work with Gabrielle, I thought I’d gift you with these little gems that have brought us through this new season of life. They are so simple, you (and your children) can practically make them with your eyes closed. And you only have to dirty one pot or bowl.
1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 12-ounce package butterscotch chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Butter an 8 x 8-inch pan. Melt the chips in a double boiler or, gently, in the microwave. Thoroughly incorporate the condensed milk into the melted chips. Transfer fudge to the pan and chill for four hours.
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy double cream
4 ounces chocolate chips (I like dark chocolate, but you can use milk chocolate or semi-sweet)
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then boil for two minutes, whisking constantly again.
Remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until combined. Pour pudding in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, then pour pudding into ramekins or small bowls. If you do not like skin, cover ramekins with wax paper. If you like skin, leave uncovered. Serve at room temperature.
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy double cream
3 ounces bourbon or rum
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
4 egg whites
Using an electric mixer, beat yolks. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until it’s dissolved. Add milk, cream, bourbon or rum, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Whisk egg whites into yolk mixture. Chill before serving. Pour eggnog into cups and top with grated nutmeg.
SUNDRIED TOMATO AND BASIL DIP
¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
Using an electric mixer, combine ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix until smooth.
1 cup sugar
¼ cup orange juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 10-ounce package fresh cranberries
1 Tbsp grated orange rind
1 Tbsp grated lemon rind
¾ cup water
Bring sugar, water and juices to a boil. Add cranberries, rinds and salt. Reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes.