When the days shorten and the weather turns cool, I see and feel the arrival of the holidays, and inevitably get in the mood to make everything festive, merry and bright. More than any other time of year, the season is meant for sharing, and I’ve been cooking up a storm at home. One of my family’s new favorites, inspired by a dish we tasted on a recent trip to Paso Robles, is Hearty Vegan “Meatballs” served atop gorgeous homemade pasta, just perfect when there’s a bit of a nip in the air. At my house, dessert always is important, and my daughter Sahara and I invented a new version of the Traditional French Fruit Clafoutis (a rich, eggy, batter cake that you eat with a spoon), and have concocted the yummiest smoothies using blueberries, coconut water and pomegranate juice. Tart, sweet, sophisticated and refreshing, they have equal appeal for adults and kids.
December is definitely a time to gather my family, especially since Sahara and my husband, Jamie, both celebrate birthdays this month. December 24, Sahara’s birthday, is always my favorite day of the year. I love making her an extra-special cake, but even better is just spending the whole day close to her and celebrating our lives together. There are seasonal family traditions that I honor, and as a Mother, I want very much to pass these along to Sahara. We light the candles on the menorah, and while we open presents on some nights, on others we discuss all the many things for which we are thankful. Best of all, perhaps, is when we fry crisp potato latkes with Sahara’s grandmothers and share them with our extended family.
I very much enjoy that December is traditionally a time to give gifts, since the act both extends love and reminds to feel grateful for life’s many blessings. This is the time that I focus on giving to family, friends, staff and those in need. Extraordinary Desserts always makes community donations that support homeless shelters, programs for the elderly, the oceans and other causes.
At Extraordinary Desserts, you know we go all-out to make the season extraordinary. One new item that is perfect for holiday gift giving and makes a wonderful hostess gift is our Gourmet Cake Kit, a beautifully packaged kit that makes it easy, affordable and enjoyable to bake a delicious Dark Chocolate Truffle Banana Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Frosting at home. Over the years, we’ve received so many requests to ship our cakes all over the country. Now we can! Priced reasonably at $28.95 and available at both of our stores as well on our online store, the kit includes nothing but top-of-the-line items, like imported chocolate, professional baking tools, an elegant doily and even a special ribbon. All that the home baker needs to add are small quantities of butter and eggs, some bananas, and – to supply the rich décor typical of my cakes – a fresh rose, if desired. The result feeds eight to ten and will always win raves.
For personal gift giving, one favorite is to present exquisite baked goods in elegant boxes or wrapped in sensational holiday papers or felt, with a gift tag attached with yarn or twine. I also like to gift Mason jars filled with homemade pesto or salad dressings from the restaurant. Baskets packed with homemade pesto and bags of artisan pastas or crackers make great-looking gifts. I also like to fill small crates with a jar of Caesar salad dressing, a bag of homemade croutons and a head of gorgeous, organic Romaine lettuce. These make easy and first-class first courses that are much appreciated by busy friends.
For me, December is both a time of spiritual renewal and a time of reflection as the end of the year draws near. It’s also an exciting time as I anticipate what the New Year will bring to my family, friends and restaurants. I wish you a holiday season full of love and joy and delicious sweets!