What is it about celebrating with girlfriends at this time of the year that is so comforting? Maybe it's because this is the season to count our blessings. And friendships are one of life's greatest treasures. It's the time of the year when we celebrate our friends. If you're like me you probably belong to a book club, bridge group or other organization with girlfriends. Most women I know love to have a reason to get together on a regular basis. Maybe it's over work, books, art, writing projects, knitting, golf or philanthropic activities. In the best of circumstances, these groups give women an opportunity to talk, listen, support, and encourage each other. Getting together on a regular basis keeps the connections strong. And appreciating each other during the holidays with a festive get-together is a wonderful way to end the year.
Yesterday I hosted a holiday lunch for my bridge group. I see these women each week for bridge and I treasure our regular get-togethers. We always manage to catch up with what's going on in our lives. And each December we make time for a holiday lunch. This year we had a potluck. My job was to make soup and savory scones. My friends brought salad, a gorgeous cheese board and a luscious chocolate cake. It was a cozy lunch on a cold December day here in Los Angeles. The fireplace was lit, spiced apple cider was simmering on the stove, and spirits were high. It's the kind of celebration I love during the holiday season. Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the most meaningful. Spending a cozy afternoon with friends brings a little extra joy to an already wonderful time of year.
Everyone loved the menu and I wanted to share three of the recipes with you:
Mulled Cider with Winter Spices
18 cups apple cider
1/3 cup orange juice
Peel (orange part only) from 1 large orange, cut into strips
1 bay leaf
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
3 whole allspice
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
2 and 1/4 cups applejack brandy (optional)
Mix first 10 ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer mixture 30 minutes to blend flavors. Strain mulled cider into mugs. Serve cider, passing applejack brandy separately, if desired. Garnish each serving with a cinnamon stick. Serves 16.
Sugared Lemon-Rosemary Scones
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 and 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the 1/3 cup of sugar, rosemary, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with some pea-size pieces of butter still visible. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the 3/4 cup of cream until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead just until it come together. Gently roll the dough into a 14-inch log, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the log into 8 rounds and transfer to the baking sheet. Brush the scones with cream and sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until the scones are golden. Let cool slightly before serving. Serves 8.
Smoky Split Pea and Root Vegetable Soup (go here for recipe)