“Holiday Cookies” ~ A Review

Are you always looking for fun and different cookies you can make in December for the holidays?

I admit, I am.  We make biscotti every Christmas…but often we’ll search for something different or unusual that we haven’t made before.  We love making spritz cookies (the cookie press is so fun to use) but I’m often disappointed by the bland flavor.  We like making sugar cookies, especially multicolored ones that you roll up.  But what else is out there?



Elisabet der Nederlanden’s Holiday Cookies has tons of holiday cookie options—many of which I’d never even heard of before!


What will you find in Holiday Cookies?

Food stylist and professional recipe developer Elisabet der Nederlanden is a resident of Berkeley, CA, but was born in and grew up in Sweden.  She learned to bake as a child and worked in a bakery as a teen.  She loves decorating for Christmas (and all its associated celebrations, like St. Lucia Day) and baking wonderful cookies and treats.  So, she brings her love and experience with baking and goodies to this book, which truly is a labor of love.  She searched out, prepared, and selected 50 unusual and delicious cookies whose origins are from countries all over the world.

What I really love about this cookbook is that you’ll find the usual suspects of Christmas cookies (like bark, gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies) but they are livened up with gorgeous decorations, unusual flavors, and unexpected tweaks that make cooking, and decorating, more enjoyable and fun.  The pictures are absolutely breathtaking and they WILL make you want to scurry to the kitchen and bake!  It’s also written in a lovely conversational manner that will make you feel as though der Nederlanden is sharing her fabulous cookie wisdom with you.



She begins with cookie-baking and decorating tips (including a great section on royal icing, which makes rolled cookies so beautiful), helpful ideas for shipping cookies and storing them.  And then the fun begins!  Der Nederlanden has divided her book into 6 sections with 8 recipes each:

  • Very Merry Classics (with gingerbread cookies, black and whites, Red Velvet Crackle Cookies, stenciled shortbread rounds)
  • Cookie Exchange Party (where you’ll find Bejeweled Chocolate Cookies, Malted Milk Chocolate Cookies, Red-and-White Meringue Kisses and more)
  • Warm Holiday Spice (which includes Saffron Pistachio Biscotti, Cinnamon-Sugar Palmiers, and Thumbprints with Spicy Plum Jam)
  • Around the World (Swedish Pepparkakor, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Italian Pignoli Cookies, and other fun recipes)
  • Holiday Confections (with goodies like Apple Cider Caramels, Matcha Chocolate Bark with Berries and Coconut, and Smoked Almond and Cacao Nib Brittle)
  • and finally, Decorated Delights, where the author shares recipes for cookie ornaments, Gingerbread Place-Card Cookies, Stained-Glass Snowflakes, and even a Gingerbread House

The recipes all seem to be well-researched (and tested) and the directions are very clear and easy to follow.  (Of course you’ll still want to read through the cookie recipes before you prepare them; some of them have ingredients that you might not have on hand.)


Our favorites

We LOVE Swedish Pepparkakor.  The St. Lucia celebration is so beautiful, and pepparkakor cookies are served then.  The cookies are crisp and carry ginger and cloves (and of course, a bit of pepper).  I don’t have der Nederlanden’s fun goat and pig cookie cutters, but we do have lots of others!

I like the saffron biscotti recipe as well.  It is beautiful and colorful, thanks to the saffron, which I’d never have imagined as a biscotti ingredient!

Other favorites include the Minty Spritz Cookies (I told you I needed a good spritz recipe!), the Gingerbread Place-Card Cookies (although honestly my hand doesn’t have beautiful cursive handwriting with icing!), and the Citrus Sugar Cookie Ornaments.  So many fun recipes to add joy to Christmas celebrations!

More about the author:

Elisabet der Nederlanden’s website


Enjoy!  –Wren


DISCLAIMER:  I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.



Make One Freeze One Challenge! Starts Monday 4/24!

**Affiliate links are included in this post.**


Have you discovered the amazingness of freezer cooking yet?

We were incredibly blessed to get to review MyFreezEasy.com in the fall.  And it has been a beloved family favorite and menu plan ever since!

Now, you have the opportunity…

to try out MyFreezEasy.com absolutely free, with their latest Make One Freeze One Challenge!


What is MyFreezEasy.com?

MyFreezEasy.com is this wonderful plan for freezer cooking.  Freezer cooking is the best way I’ve ever found to have delicious, healthy meals waiting in the freezer every day of the week.  All you do is set aside an afternoon and collect your recipes (mine are from MyFreezEasy.com‘s monthly meal plans) and ingredients.  Then, you assemble the ingredients for each meal and place them in freezer zipper bags.  Then, pop them in the freezer.  All you have to do from that point on is to pull them out in the morning or afternoon, place them in the crockpot or oven, and dinner is done!

I love MyFreezEasy.com for so many reasons, like….

  • the meals are delicious
  • they’re organized on the website according to meal type (beef, gluten-free, clean eats, chicken, and more)
  • they make it easy–indeed, possible–for me to serve healthy meals to my family
  • all the preparation is completed by me over the weekend
  • I don’t have to try and figure out at dinner time what I’m going to cook for my family





What is the Make One, Freeze One Challenge?

It’s your chance, courtesy of MyFreezEasy.com, to try out their freezer meals absolutely free of charge!  Just click on Make One Freeze One Challenge and enter your email address.  Then, you’ll be able to choose from three different summer meal plans:

  • Skillet & Grilled Meals
  • Slow Cooker Summer Meals
  • Summer Clean Eats

Each of these has 5 different meals in it.  You’ll be able to download the meal plan of your choice.  Then all you have to do is to assemble the ingredients and prepare them!  The Make One Freeze One Challenge is set up so that you prepare two of each meal; one to eat immediately and one to put in the freezer for later.

How I plan to use the Make One, Freeze One Challenge

I’m still trying to decide which of the three meals I’d like to make and freeze.  They’re all so delectable-sounding.  How would you like New Mexico Chicken Lettuce Wraps?  Or Grilled Honey Mustard Pork Chops?  Or maybe Grilled Citrus Salmon Packs?  There are 12 more amazing recipes to choose from, divided into the three meal plan categories.

Why would you want to try this out?

Are you someone who’s exhausted at the thought of cooking dinner after a busy day?  Or someone who’s interested in trying out freezer cooking?  What about someone who’s looking for new meals?  Or, are you a mom who just needs a little help in cooking for your family?

Whatever the reason, I wholeheartedly recommend MyFreezEasy.com to you.  It has been such a blessing to us…not only for me, but for my family as well.  And with the Make One Freeze One Challenge, you can try it out absolutely free!

Give it a try.

Just click on Make One Freeze One Challenge, select your meal plan, and jump in.  I really think you will love it!

Enjoy!  –Wren


n accordance with FTC regulations, we are providing this Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in our posts are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we may receive an affiliate commission, which will never cost you anything. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.

From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.


10 Amazing Biscotti Recipes (plus 2)


It’s time to dust off the biscotti recipes and start our holiday baking!

Here are some of my tried-and-true faves.

Happy baking! –Wren


Every Christmas, I make one of my favorite baked goodies for my beloved aunts and uncles.  It’s been part of our Christmas tradition for years!  And while I have my favorite old standbys (Southern Living‘s Cocoa-Almond Biscotti and Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Biscotti), my eyes always light up when I see a new biscotti recipe.  Here’s a list and links to the next 10 I plan to try out!

1.  Whole Living‘s Double Dark-Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti.  This is not a newbie to me, but it definitely bears mentioning here.  This is a complex and interesting mixture of dark chocolate, chopped candied ginger and walnuts that will delight the palates of the adults on your list.  It’s very healthy as well!

2.  Martha Stewart has a lovely Cherry-Almond Biscotti recipe at her website, using dried cherries and amaretto to build an unforgettable flavor.  Cherries plus almonds…

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Crispy Falafel Salad!!

A delicious dish perfect for these hot summer days…It transports you to the Mediterranean!

Falafel box


  • 1 box organic chick peas
  • 2 T Hummus
  • 2T  Flour
  • 1 T Ras el Hanout (combo of spices such as ginger, cardamom, cinnamon,hot paprika).
  • 1/2 oz Parsley
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 c Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 c Panko
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1/2 c Feta
  • 2-3 T Olive Oil

Prep the ingredients and set aside in the order you will need them.

Wash and dry all produce, Peel and halve the cucumber lengthwise, scrape seeds out with t spoon, then slice into half moons (1/2-3/4″).

Falafel cucumbers

Falafel half moons

thinly slice half of the onion and then dice the other.

Zest the lemon then cut in half. Pick 1/2 of the parsley leaves off stems and set aside. Chop the remaining parsley sans stems. Mince the garlic and drain and rinse the chick peas in a strainer.

Falafel zest

Falafel parsley leaves

Falafel parsley

Pickle the red onion: in a small bowl,combine the sliced onion with the juice of half the lemon.

Greek yogurt dressing: combine 1/2 c Greek yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, add 1/2 the chopped parsley and up to half the minced garlic to taste. Season with S&P,

Falafel diced onons

Make the falafel mixture: in a medium bowl combine the chick peas and hummus, mashing together until smooth. Mix in the flour, ras el hanout, diced red onion, lemon zest, parsley and garlic. S&P to taste.

falafel chick and hummus

Cook the falafel fritters: add the panko to a bowl, form the falafel patties and roll into the panko (about 1 2/2 ” balls> Flatten each ball into a patty. heat 1/4 “olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the fritters to the oil mixture and cook on each side (3-4 minutes). Set aside on paper towels to drain, S&P to taste.

Dress the salad: toss the remaining parsley, cucumber ans pickled red onion, S&P.

falafel salad

Finish! Top the salad with the fritters, drizzle with Greek dressing and sprinkle Feta on top.



Falafel finalEnjoy,,,Finch!

From Our Archives: Chocolate Souffles!

I’m sharing a wonderful post from our archives today, that Finch made.  It inspires me to want to make something beautiful!

While I did not learn to cook until much later in life (following recipes mostly), for some reason I had an aptitude for desserts. So one day I decided to make an extremely labor intensive Chocolate souffle with crème anglaise (English cream) no less.

I used a recipe out of our Gourmet cookbook that my sister gave us (really gave my husband) and I was off to the races! I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips, melting them over simmering water. Of course, while that is all going on, you have to turn your egg whites into frothy peaks, then adding your egg yolks to the melted chocolate mixture. After your meringue peaks are stiff, you have to gently fold 1 cup into the chocolate mixture to lighten it up. Then it becomes a delicate dance to make sure you are gently folding the chocolate mixture into the meringue (never stirring, always folding)!

The souffle dishes have been pre-buttered and lightly coated with sugar and kept in the freezer until ready.

Did I mention that as I was beginning the creme anglais sauce I realized it had to be refrigerated for at least an hour!!!

Fortunately, you can assemble the souffles 30 minutes ahead of actual cooking time. Spooning the mixture into the dishes, you can let them sit at room temperature for up to 30 minutes as long as they are covered by a large metal bowl (that can’t touch the souffles).

The creme anglaise is made with 1/2 a vanilla bean, egg yolks, sugar and whole milk. You must scrape the vanilla bean seed into the milk and heat until thoroughly warmed (this while you are mixing the sugar and yolks, then pouring the hot milk and vanilla bean mixture through a strainer and finally adding it to the egg and sugar mix, of course, briskly whisking! Then you must place the bowl into an ice bath, still briskly whisking to cool and refrigerate at for 1 hour.

It’s a wonderful, decadent custard sauce, perfect for chocolate!

The souffles went in after lunch and looked beautiful (serve them quickly as they will fall after about 5 minutes). Make a hole in the top of your souffle and spoon or pour the crème anglaise in. I would have had pictures of the completely finished product, but it literally disappeared.

Chocolate souffles

Try it! but make sure you have an extra pair of hands to help with poring and straining!


From Our Archives: A Delicious Soup, perfect for summer

Here’s a delicious recipe from our archives; Finch’s tomato basil soup from Hello Fresh.  Yum!


My first foray into the world of Hello Fresh!

Super easy, quick and delicious! We took the picture of the finished product and ate it standing at the counter,,,it was that good. It came with organic greens for a balsamic salad (but we went straight to the good stuff and didn’t make)!

TB ingredients


  • 2 pkgs organic crushed Tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 yellow Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 oz fresh Basil
  • 2 oz Sour Cream
  • 4 oz shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 pkg Vegetable stock concentrate
  • 4 slices nutty Whole Wheat bread
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 2 T Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Take the butter out of the fridge early so it comes to room temp. Mince the Onion. Mince the Garlic. Finely chop the Basil leaves, leaving a few unchopped for the garnish.

Chopped basil

Heat 1 T butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic stirring, for 5-6 minutes until soft and slightly carmelized, salt and pepper.

Onion and butter

Add the crushed toatoes, stock concentrate, sugar and 1 1/2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, season with salt & pepper.

Tomato soup

Grilled cheese sandwiches: divide the cheese between the two slices of bread and top with remaining bread. Coat both sides of the sandwiches with butter. Heat a large skillet over low heat, add the sandwiches to the non-stick pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until brown and crispy. Allow to cool and slice into quarters.
Dividing the cheese

Ungrilled cheese

Grilled cheese sand


Remove the bisque from the heat, stir in chopped basil and sour cream. We used a hand held immersion blender to smooth out the bisque.

TB cooking

Garnish with basil leaves and a quarter of a sandwich. Dip and enjoy!

Tomato Basil finished


  • 35 minutes
  • vegetarian
  • Feeds 4 people (we froze half)!

This is a link and referral code if you are interested!



Disclosure:  Finch is an affiliate for Hello Fresh.  If you click on the referral code, she will receive a discount…but it will cost you nothing extra.  Thank you!

Southwestern Stuffed Zucchini!

Another fabulous meal from Hello Fresh; super, super easy and delicious in 35 minutes!

zucchini box closed

zucchini box open


  • 3/4 c Basmati Rice
  • 2 Zucchini’s
  • 1 ear Sweet Corn
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1/4 oz Cilantro (fresh)
  • 1 box or can of Organic Black Beans
  • 1/2 c Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 pkt Vegetable Stock Concentrate
  • 1 t Chili Flakes
  • 2 t Olive Oil

First, get your prep work out of the way: Wash and dry all of your produce and preheat your oven to 400 degrees (on a roast setting if you have one).

Dice the onion and set aside.zucchini onion chopped

Core, seed and dice the tomato, set aside.zucchini tomatoes

Rinse and drain the black beans,zucchini beans

Slice the kernels off the cob (I do this over a bowl to prevent kernels running amok).zucchini corn

Chop the Cilantro (i removed the stems). zucchini cilantro

Halve the zucchini’s lengthwise, use a spoon to scoop out the center (easiest to do from top to bottom dragging the spoon).zucchini boats

Roast the zucchini: drizzle inside with olive oil and salt & pepper, place face down on a baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes until edges have browned.

zucchini roastedDrizzle olive oil into a large skillet, saute the onions, tossing for 3-4 minutes. Fill a small pot with 1 1/2 cups of water, add the stock concentrate and bring to a boil; add rice and simmer until done (15 minutes). zucchini onions

Add the corn, beans, tomatoes and chili flakes and cook about 4 minutes (tossing until integrated).zucchini stuffing

Then add the rice and half the cilantro and cook another 3 minutes, tossing. zucchini stuffing with rice

Time to assemble! Scoop as much of the rice and vegetable mixture into the boats still on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the cheese over the boats and place under the broiler to melt the cheese. When plating, additional filling underneath to serve as a bed for your roasted zucchini boats and top with more cilantro!zucchini finished

The finished product…was amazing; we sprinkled Frank’s hot sauce to kick the heat up a tad!

If you are interested in trying Hello Fresh click this link with my referral code: http://www.hellofresh.com/raf-helloshare/?c=HDAVEB