Christmas and Holiday Gift Idea: Homemade Mulling Spices

Homemade mulling spices make a wonderful gift with either a bottle of wine or a jug of apple cider.

Super easy to make, you'll impress your friends with this warm, spicy homemade gift.

Homemade Mulling Spices

Step 1: Gather the ingredients

  • Rinds of 3 oranges
  • 8 ounces whole cloves
  • 6 cinnamon sticks, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons allspice
  • 3 tablespoons candied ginger, diced into small bits

To remove the pith:

  • Cut the oranges into quarters, just deep enough to remove the skin from the fruit.
  • Peel the skin off the fruit. Turn it pith side up and using a serrated knife (or better yet, a grapefruit spoon)  scrape the skin clean. Be careful not to cut through the skin with the knife.

Dry The Orange Rinds:

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  • Cut the cleaned orange rinds into strips.
  • Place the strips on a parchment paper lined baking tray.
  • Dry in the oven for up to an hour (make sure to keep an eye on them, so they don't become too brittle).

Combine all of the ingredients, package and share!

  • Sterilize 4 4 ounce jars (see here for instructions).
  • Spoon mixture into jars and seal. Use a decorative ribbon to finish the jar.
  • Wrap your favorite red wine or apple cider in tulle or colorful fabric, tied with a decorative ribbon
  • Warm 4 cups of wine or cider over a medium flame. Add mulling spices and warm again for five minutes, or until you smell the aroma of the oranges, spices and ginger being released from the mixture.
  • Strain the mixture, keep warm over low flame and serve.

Thanksgiving: We Love Stuffing

Stuffing was never high on my list of Thanksgiving loves. I never loved the flavor, and was put off by the number of ingredients involved.

That all changed about three years ago when I started making my own, with lots of bacon and sausage.

Anything that can act as a vehicle for as much meat and savory goodness as you can stuff into a pan is good by me. Thanksgiving dishes give me an opportunity to go a little bit crazy and not worry so much about the healthier way that I usually eat. Portion control in the stuffing and mash potatoes department are completely gone. I figure once a year, I can really let loose and pack in the good stuff.

If you can line up all your ingredients and cook the elements you need in advance, this stuffing will come together quickly and easily. There will be lots of dicing, browning and dishes, but all for the good cause of making the best stuffing ever.

This year, I used port to rehydrate the dried porcini mushrooms and added dried California figs, instead of dried apricots.

You can amend this recipe however you'd like: use wine instead of port; morels instead of porcini; pecans instead of chestnuts. Whatever you do, keep the earthy flavors balancing out the sweet and nutty flavors and you'll have yourself a wonderful stuffing.

Below is the recipe, but here are links to some of the main ingredients, which I've posted before:

Roast Chestnuts

Corn Muffins

Oven-baked Bacon

Thanksgiving Porcini, Bacon, Sausage, Cornbread and Chestnut Stuffing

serves 6


  • 5 corn muffins, crumbled (click here for the recipe)
  • 10 to 15 roasted chestnuts, chopped into bits (click here for the recipe)
  • 2 to 4 slices oven-baked bacon, chopped into small bits (click here for the recipe)
  • 4 dried figs, sliced into small pieces
  • 8 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup port (or red wine or brandy)
  • 2 hot italian sausages, casing removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 sweet onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, smashed
  • 6 sage leaves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a fork.
  4. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until he meat has browned.
  5. Meanwhile, put the porcini mushrooms and port in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  6. Cook the porcini until they have absorbed 2/3 of the liquid.
  7. Once the sausages have browned, add the onions and garlic and cook until they soften, about 10 minutes.
  8. Take a rimmed baking dish and place the corn muffins, chestnuts, walnuts, sage and bacon bits into it.
  9. Add the porcini and the port to the sausage pan, stirring for about five minutes.
  10. While everything cooks, grab a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the porcini into small pieces. You may also need to chop up the sausages a bit, too.
  11. Remove the sauté pan from the heat and add the ingredients to the rimmed baking dish, mixing everything up.
  12. Pour the chicken stock over the stuffing and mix it in to help the cornbread to absorb it.
  13. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring once. It may take a bit longer, it's done when you find the sausage nice a crispy.

You Will Be Missed Marion Cunningham: Fig and Ham Sandwiches on Rye Bread

Fig and ham sandwiches with butter on rye bread mark my second installment in our Cook The Book project.

We are cooking through Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book. There are six of us participating in the project: Rachel of Ode to Goodness, Sammy of Rêve du Jour, Emily of The Bon Appetit Diaries, Aimee of Homemade Trade and Claudie of The Bohemian Kitchen.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that our author, Marion Cunningham, passed away last week. She was 90 years old, and died from Alzheimer's in Walnut Creek, CA. You can read more about her in the New York Times' obituary. I'm glad we chose her book and that we can use these next few months to showcase her wonderful recipes and keep her legacy alive.

The sandwich recipe I selected, fig and ham with butter on rye bread, is a perfect example of Cunningham's style of cooking. She was known for relating recipes from home cooks for home cooks. The straightforward nature of her writing is a breath of fresh air. Though I love today's cookbooks and all the techniques, varied ingredients and multiple steps they outline, I just adore a simple home-style recipe.

As my mother, Gran Fran, put it: "Cunningham joins Dionne Lucas, Elizabeth David, and M.F.K. Fisher as much-missed writers of the joys of cooking." So right. These are the names I recall when looking through Gran Fran's cookbook collection over the years. I can remember Gran Fran reading and marking up Cunningham's books, just as I do today.

The sandwich turned out wonderfully. It would never have occurred to me to add butter to a sandwich with meat (although I do recall loving a sandwich I had in Paris that clearly had butter on top of ham). Even though I didn't have gluten-free rye bread, I did eat one triangle of this sandwich. I just couldn't resist. The sweet figs, salty ham and soft creamy butter make a heavenly combination.

So here's to you, Marion Cunningham, for leaving wonderful tomes of recipes for us to remember you by. I can't wait to cook the next installment of The Breakfast Book.

The rye bread featured in the pictures is standard-issue. You can purchase this Colorado Caraway bread from Canyon Bakehouse, online or check out their store locator to see if it's available near you. 

Fig and Ham on Rye Bread

from Marion Cunnigham's The Breakfast Book, Copyright 1987, Alfred A. Knopf

Makes 2 sandwiches


  • 4 slices rye bread
  • Butter
  • 5 ripe figs
  • 4 pieces of thinly sliced ham


  1. For 2 sandwiches, butter 2 slices of bread to the edges. Trim the blowwom end and stem from 5 ripe free figs (the Adriatic variety is delicious) and slice each one into 3 slices.
  2. Divide the slices of fig between 2 unbuttered slices of bread. Place a very thin slice of ham [I went with 2 slices on each sandwich] over each and cover with the buttered bread.
  3. Gently press down on each sandwich. Cut in half and serve.

Something Sweet For Mother's Day: Granita, Apple Crisp, Lemon Curd, Citrus Tart, Granola

It's time for Mother's Day! I am so very excited to see what my daughter has up her sleeve this year. In honor of Mom, I'm posting some very nice sweet recipes you can make ahead and bring to Mom. The lemon curd and the granola make several servings that you can bottle and distribute to your mom, grandmother, stepmother, godmother or whatever lady is the fabulous mom-figure in your life.

You can also check out my piece on Mother's Day with links to 3 more great recipes here.

Enjoy and happy mother's day!

Citrus Puff Pastry Tart

Granola: Nuts, Olive Oil, Maple Syrup and Coconut

Lemon Curd

Apple Pear Crisp

Strawberry, Grapefruit and Sage Granita

Cranberry Ginger Ale