Almond-Crusted French Toast


Breakfast on Christmas morning is a special meal at our house.  When the kids were small I would cook a big breakfast.  When the grandparents would come by to see what Santa had left under the tree they would eat too.  These days, the grandparents don’t make it to our house on Christmas day but I still want to serve my family something special.

This wonderful almond-crusted French toast is from an older Tavern on the Green cookbook.  The changed it slightly by leaving out 1 tbsp. of rum, Cognac, or Grand Marnier, and adding cinnamon or vanilla instead.  The recipe also calls for Brioche or Challah.   These would probably be great…if you can find them.  I do not have a huge selection of breads here in the country.  I use French bread, from the bakery at my local grocery store, and it works perfectly.  The sliced almonds add a crunchy nuttiness that makes this French toast a scrumptious breakfast that everyone will love.  Serve with a bacon and fresh berries for a delicious Christmas breakfast!


Almond-Crusted French Toast
  • 5 lg. eggs
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 2½ tbsp. maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Nine ¾-inch-thick slices bread (Brioche, Challah is recommended...I use French)
  • 2½ c. sliced raw almonds
  • unsalted butter, as needed
  • heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • fresh berries, optional
  1. In a large, shallow bowl, whisk eggs, milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Dredge both sides of the bread thoroughly in the egg mixture. Spread out the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and place a slice of bread down on the almonds, pressing down gently so that the nuts adhere. Turn the bread over and coat the other side. Repeat with the remaining slices.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add a few slivers of butter. When the foam has subsided, cook the slices of bread for 1½ to 2 minutes on each side, until light brown. Add more slivers of butter around edges of the pan when you turn the bread, and as necessary when the butter is absorbed, so that they nuts do not burn. Repeat with the remaining slices, reducing the heat slightly if the pan gets too hot.
  3. Serve on warm plates. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream, and ripe berries if desired. Serve with warmed maple syrup.



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Oreo Balls

Savannah's Oreo Balls 2


The season is passing by much faster than I would like.  The older I get the more it seems that I don’t get everything checked from my list that I really want to do.  Wes and Savannah are finished with fall semester and will be home for a few weeks.  I’m so glad to have them home but for some strange reason they have the idea that I’m their “personal chef” while they are on break.

When the kids were smaller they always opened one Christmas gift on Christmas Eve.  Now that we do three gifts, opening one of Christmas Eve is not an option as far as Greg is concerned.  He never really liked that anyway.  So, I am planning a Christmas Eve game for us this year.  I’ve been collecting small gifts and I have a few secrets up my sleeve.

Todays recipe is Savannah’s recipe.  She has been making these for the past couple of years during the holidays.  Wes and Greg request them and they do not last long around here.  This is a great recipe to get the kids involved in too!


Oreo Balls
  • 36 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  1. Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until blended.
  2. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Freeze for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt chocolate. Remove Oreo balls from freezer and dip into melted chocolate. Return to wax paper lined pan. Return Oreo balls to the freezer until chocolate has set.
  4. Store in refrigerator.


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Royal Icing




When our kids were small I bought each of them a gingerbread house kit to decorate.  When Wes hit middle school he was too old     for such nonsense but Savannah continued to make me a gingerbread house.  The above picture is one of my favorite pictures of her in deep concentration while decorating a gingerbread house.  She is in her first year of college but I have her kit ready for her to decorate as soon as finals are over and she’s home for Christmas.  She enjoys coming up with new designs every year and incorporating new candies.  Who knows, had it not been for gingerbread houses, she may not be on the path to becoming an Interior Designer today!

christmas royal icing

She will kill me if she ever sees this on NJSD!!


There is never enough candy or royal icing mix in the kits so here’s the recipe for royal icing.  If you have never purchased meringue powder you can find where cake decorating products are sold (usually Hobby Lobby or Michael’s).





Royal Icing
  • ½ c. plus 1 tbsp. meringue powder
  • 1 c. plus 2 tbsp. warm water
  • 12 c. confectioners sugar
  • ¾ tsp. cream of tartar
  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. First start the mixer on low and increase speed as the mixture starts to come together. Mix 6 to 8 minutes or until fluffy and shiny. Keep covered with a damp towel until ready to use.
If it is necessary to thin the icing add 1 tbsp. warm water at a time. If necessary to thicken the icing add a little confectioners sugar at a time.

If icing is going to be used for piping, it should be thinned to the consistency of molasses.



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Chewy Chocolate White Chocolate Peppermint M&M Cookies



I enjoy talking to people about their many Christmas traditions.  My friend Sherri, along with her daughter, mother, sisters, and nieces have a standing tradition of making Christmas candy together.  A tradition that was actually started by Sherri’s grandmother.  They meet on a Saturday, early in December, and make enough candy for each of their families and enough to share with friends.  Last weekend they met and made 1200 chocolate covered cherries, 560 buckeyes, and fudge.  I stopped by to witness their assembly line and was amazed.

I have several traditions myself.  Getting together with family, Christmas baking, making Christmas candy, the pickle ornament on our tree, Christmas Eve family time, and Christmas morning breakfast.  I know things will change as my kids move out and have families of their own but new traditions will start.  Like the one we started this year with the ladies in my mother’s family.  We had what we are now calling our first annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party.  We had a fashion show so that everyone could see our lovely (not) Christmas sweaters.  We had games and prizes, a makeshift photo booth,  and of course wonderful food.


Another new tradition in my house will be these incredible White Chocolate Peppermint M&M’s!  I recently talked to an older lady in Target.  She was looking for the White Chocolate Peppermint M&M’s.  She told me that she had tried them last year and she couldn’t wait for them to appear on the shelves this season.  I tried to help her find them but I think we were a few weeks too early.

When I saw them at Target last week I had to pick up a bag.  I now understand her anticipation…they are delicious.  Not too overpowering, which some peppermint can be in my opinion.  I decided to try them in an old chewy chocolate cookie recipe that I’ve had for years.  I replaced the peanut butter chips in my cookie recipe with White Chocolate Peppermint M&M’s and dark chocolate chips.  Then I decided to throw in a few crushed candy canes for extra special yumminess!    These would be great at any Christmas party or to have on hand when guests drop by.


Chewy Chocolate White Chocolate Peppermint M&M Cookies
  • 1¼ c. butter, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 lg. eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 c. White Chocolate Peppermint M&M's
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips
  • ⅓ c. crushed candy canes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; gradually blend into the creamed mixture. Stir in M&M's, chips, and crush candy canes.
  3. Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 7 to 9 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cool on pan for a minute or two. Remove to a cooling rack to continue cooling.

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Salmon Cheese Ball



During the holidays we are asked to bring a dish to many parties.  Here’s a perfect appetizer that has been around as long as I can remember.  My mom use to make this when I was a girl and I have always loved it.  Liquid smoke is definitely something that can overpower a dish if you use too much,  but just a hint in this recipe gives you a great smoked salmon flavor!  My mother did not add horseradish to her salmon ball but I really like the flavor.


Salmon Cheese Ball
  • 1 (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. grated onion
  • ¼ tsp. liquid smoke
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 (14.75-oz.) canned salmon, deboned and skin removed
  • ½ to 1 tsp. prepared horseradish, optional
  • 3 tbsp. dried parsley
  • ½ to ¾ c. chopped pecans
  1. Drain, debone, remove skin, and flake salmon, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the cream cheese, lemon juice, grated onion, liquid smoke, and salt, mix well. Add salmon and mix thoroughly. Add horseradish, if desired.
  3. Spread a large piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Mix the parsley and chopped pecans and spread in the center of the plastic wrap. Spoon the salmon mixture on top of the parsley/pecan mixture. Using the plastic wrap shape the salmon mixture into a ball while covering the outside of the ball with the parsley/pecan mixture. Wrap well and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving. Serve with assorted crackers.


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