Christmas dinner.

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It’s a magical time we’re in now, isn’t it?

Magical except for the constant traffic, frightening encounters with last-minute shoppers, and annual family conflict reenactments. It’s a bummer that life gets stressful during the times we hope to savor; but, hey, this is why we have sugar cookie highs and mulled wine! To keep Christmas sane and the candy canes and silver lanes aglow, my family’s planning a simple Christmas dinner.

We’ll have smoked ham glazed with Byrd & Duncan beer syrup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, my grandmother’s famous cream of chicken soup dressing, deliciously southern sorghum green beans, and a couple homemade pies. There will be plenty of wine and a cocktail or two. There will be the conversation about civil war ethics, how much we love/hate Charles Dickens, and, of course, a ridiculous amount of laughter, even more than the amount of wine we will drink.

Happy Christmas! Here’s to peace, good food, and your crazy-wonderful family.

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Green Beans with Sorghum and Sesame

Makes enough for 8 as a side. Adapted from Bon Appétit.

  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper & kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sorghum syrup or 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Drain and pat dry.
  2. Toss beans and oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and lightly charred in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk soy sauce, sorghum, sesame seeds, and cumin in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add warm beans and toss to coat.

The peppermint patty.

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Looking for a beautiful, handmade gift idea for Christmas?

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Homemade peppermint patties!

You haven’t had a peppermint patty until you have one that’s made by hand. These peppermint bites are relatively easy to make and very pretty, perfect for holiday gifting. Plus they actually taste like peppermint, a far cry from synthetic, aluminum-flavored York peppermint patties. This recipe comes from a pastry chef who once ran her own chocolate making business, teaches classes on handmade candy, and with whom I just finished editing a cookbook; the lady knows her patty.

And, side note: I’ve started writing a food column for Misadventures, the ridiculously awesome magazine for adventurous women; you can find a funny story behind peppermint patties here!

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Handmade Peppermint Patties

Makes 24 patties. Recipe adapted from Ash­ley Rodriguez.

  •   2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  •   1 1/2 table­spoons unsalted but­ter, softened
  •   1/2 tea­spoon kosher salt
  •   1 1/2 tea­spoons pep­per­mint extract
  •   1/2 vanilla bean, seeds only (optional, but so good)
  •   2 table­spoons heavy cream
  •   12 ounces good qual­ity dark chocolate
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine confectioner’s sugar, butter, salt, peppermint extract, vanilla, and cream. Beat with a paddle attachment until mixture comes together. Turn mixer on high and beat until candy comes together and is light and creamy. When you touch it, it should be soft but not at all sticky; if it seems sticky, add a little more powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until dough is no longer sticky.
  2. Scrape candy paste out onto a long piece of cling wrap and form into a thin tube about 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Wrap well in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Once candy is firm, use a large sharp knife to slice off rounds about 1/4-inch thick. Return to refrigerator.
  3. Melt chocolate in the microwave, stirring in 30-second increments to prevent overheating.
  4. Remove candy discs from refrigerator and dip into melted chocolate. With a fork, let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and set dipped peppermint patty onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper. If patties get too soft to dip, chill briefly in the refrigerator until they’re firm again.
  5. Let patties set at room temperature, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.