Like clockwork the holidays are here, nipping aggressively at our heels. If you’re anything like me, right now you’re juggling holiday baking projects, Christmas shopping (and the subsequent wrapping disaster and shipping nightmare), parties, cookies exchanges and what not. It’s a race and the goal right now is just to keep it together and get it all done. Somehow amidst the chaos, the “holiday spirit” always sneaks up slowly usually as I bat it away with a chocolate coated hand. Truthfully, I never feel fully “spirited” until Christmas Eve when I am able to completely exhale. Let’s face it, this is a stressful time and we all have to adjust our expectations to realistic levels. I’ve found a cocktail here or there usually helps.
For my faithful readers this holiday season (and looking at my analytics, I do realize that someone besides my mom and dad are reading this so thank you) I’m going to put together a few things this week to help you out – gift ideas for the cooks and bakers in your life and today, a lovely give-away. A while back I went to a lovely breakfast hosted by the folks at Spice Islands with the fabulous David Lebovitz. While the whole episode was more than a little embarrassing for me, I met some wonderful people. The blogging world is like that.
The great folks at Spice Islands sent me a great little case full of key baking ingredients I think you’ll find helpful in the coming weeks. Inside this beautiful case are your holiday baking essentials: ground cinnamon, ground cloves and pure vanilla extract. My favorites – all the warm, toasty flavors I adore and just think of all the wonderful things you can make! Right off the top of my head, those are the fixin’s for a fabulous gingerbread.
A quick note about vanilla, one of my very favorite ingredients as I am truly a vanilla person at heart. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here but pure vanilla extract is absolutely something you should be using. Did you know that imitation vanilla has nothing to do with a vanilla bean and is actually made from artificial flavorings, most of which come from wood byproducts and various chemicals. Yeah – yuck. You wouldn’t eat wood chips so why are you putting them in your pound cake? If you haven’t already switched to pure vanilla, please do so immediately. Yes, of course it’s more expensive – it should be. Vanilla beans are one of the most difficult things to grow – they are the single stamen from a vanilla orchid and have to be hand pollinated. Can you even imagine? I’ve said it before – good food shouldn’t be cheap. Affordable is ok, but cheap is usually not. If it’s at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
So leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite holiday treat – a cookie, candy, cake, what have you. I’ll select a comment randomly via random.org and the box of fabulous goodies will be on its way to the lucky person by early next week. You have until Friday 12/9 5pm CST to leave a comment. I’ll get in contact with the selected winner for shipping info so be sure to leave your email address.
Hang in there – we’ll all make it through. And don’t forget about the power of music to help you make it through these baking and wrapping frenzies! The right tunes can make a huge difference on your mood and for me, it’s never Christmas music that does the trick. I’ve written about it here and for me, it’s more like Funk or Hip-hop – baking and booty-shakin’ go hand in hand in my world.