Ciao'd with a cup of hot cocoa.

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Holidays drift upon memories and traditions. We hang baubles on the tree and a holly wreath on the door. We collect pine cones and make pomanders. We sing carols and stuff stockings. Well, maybe "we" don't but you may. Amongst the flurry of holiday activities, I am willing to bet that one tradition reigns supreme: baking cookies. If you are a holiday cookie baker, chances are you harbor a favorite, must-have, it's-not-Christmas-without cookie recipe. I know I do.

My Italian aunts called them simply Chocolate Christmas Cookies. In reality, they are sweet, rich bites of Puglia, the Italian region from which my family hails. The cookies are spiced with cinnamon, cloves and allspice, studded with toasted walnuts, chocolate morsels, and raisins, and spiked with a healthy dose of bourbon that knits the ingredients into rich and complex goodness. You can't help but swoon.

I published this recipe last December but I have had so many people request it again that I'm sharing it once more. For the recipe as well as more about my aunts who bestowed this holiday ritual upon me, simply click here

Buon Natale. May you have a happy and delicious holiday.  

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Ciao'd with a Cyber Monday hangover.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year and by that, I mean holiday parties are in full swing. Sure we, or should I say I, will ingest and imbibe a bit too much but what’s a celebration without a bit of recklessness?

I was once invited to a cocktail party where the menu featured nothing but Champagne, caviar, and sugared fruit. The room was lit with candlelight and the delicate honey scent of beeswax rippled the air. Talk about reckless but talk about elegance, too.

Therein lies the beauty of the cocktail party. It can be as lavish or as spare as you wish it to be. Simply be sure you have enough drinks and hors d’oeuvres, a witty guest or two to keep things interesting, and the rest will work itself out.

The cocktail party traditionally lasts two to three hours and for this, I doubly bless it. Not that I don’t adore my friends and like most of my acquaintances, but I’m over hosting dinners that go on and on into the oblivion of a drunken night and a murky next morning. I generally specify an ending time for the party, which signals that my guests should make their own arrangements for dinner (as for me, frozen pizza or tamales beckon). If you exist in a world of capriciousness and abandon, simply list the time of the party and see what develops. Send me a note. I’d love to hear about the shenanigans.

You have lots of options for drinks. Simply stock the bar with wine and beer or elaborately fortify it with hard liquors, mixers, and aperitifs. Lately, it’s all the rage to offer a specialty drink. Maybe a classic cocktail such as a Manhattan? A selection of margaritas in a variety of flavors? You can go for broke and offer a custom libation. I’ve got you covered on this with a recipe for the Red Paisley, a colorful concoction of pink grapefruit juice, vodka, and lemon. A few dashes of cocktail bitters add a snap of extra flavor.

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Wearing the pattern isn't necessary when sipping this drink - but just think of the effect.

Serves 1

3 ounces fresh pink grapefruit juice
2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3 to 4 dashes cocktail bitters, or more to taste
Lemon wheel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Add all the ingredients except the lemon wheel and shake well. Strain into a coupe or martini glass and garnish with the lemon wheel. Cheers!

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These festive cookies are spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, studded with toasted walnuts, chocolate morsels, and raisins, and spiked with a healthy dose of bourbon that knits the ingredients into a rich and complex goodness. No doubt the recipe has Medieval origins. And because we Italians like to gild the lily, the cookies are finished with lemon-scented icing and colorful sprinkles.

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