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Festive Food Freebies
By Hilary Williamson (updated December 2018)

Starting to plan those annual holiday feasts for a crowd of family and friends? As always, the days are slipping by far too fast, and planning and preparations loom large. If your usual selection is getting stale, dip into festive freebies - a mouthwatering mix of recipe samples found in cookbook excerpts or on chef's sites. Here are some that appealed to me, but by all means explore these sources yourself for enticing edibles (note that in many cases, you will need to open the excerpt in the page the link takes you to, and scroll down to find the recipe).


Open the festivities with a Champagne Cornucopia (from Hachette Book Group's Thoughts for Food). Try some of Lucia's Killer Sangria from The Cooking Club Cookbook's excerpt (click on 'Read an Excerpt' below the book cover to access it). Pair that with IHeartNaptime's Family Friendly Sangria for the younger crowd; it's not just for summer sipping. And if it's chilly outdoors, warm up your guests with James Beard's Hot Spiced Wine.

Appetizers with appeal

I plan to make some of the Barefoot Contessa's Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta for my guests this holiday. Or I might try Mollie Katzen's recipe for Mushroom and Cheese Pate - my son and I love mushrooms. Looking for a hearty start? Who could resist Grilled Vegetable Antipasto with Herbed Chevre and Crostini (from Foster's Market Cookbook)? Certainly Not me.

Soups & Salads

Here are two Knopf Recipe soups - Anne Mendelson's Apple-Onion Cream Soup and Lara Vapnyar's Hot Borscht - to warm up a holiday table. Or get fancy with Goldilocks' Gourmet Spinach Soup from Goldy's Kitchen Cookbook. For a light salad course, how about Mollie Katzen's Green Salad with Pears, Pecans, and Feta?

The Centerpiece

If your taste buds crave a fancy fish course, here's Williams-Sonoma's Sous Vide Salmon Teriyaki. Prefer fowl? There's always Delia Smith's Traditional Roast Turkey with Pork, Sage and Onion Stuffing. Or if the geese are getting fat, enjoy James Beard's Christmas Goose and Stuffing, perhaps paired with Jamie Oliver's Roast squash, sage, chestnut and pancetta risotto.

One week later, start the day with Williams-Sonoma's Lobster Eggs Benedict. If you like to serve a New Year's Eve buffet for casual dining as I do, Jamie Oliver's Porchetta ('Rolled Loin Stuffed with Beautiful Things') fits the bill. And as a change from festive fowl, how about Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Fresh Mint-Pepper Jelly from The Foster's Market Cookbook for New Year's Day dinner?

Fancy Veggies

Out of many choices, these caught my eye as intriguing enough for the festive table ... Mollie Katzen's Swiss Green Beans, Delia Smith's Oven-roasted Winter Vegetables, and Williams-Sonoma's Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Dessert Decadence

And why not? It's the holidays after all, time to stop counting calories and remember the old Irish saying 'A little of what you fancy does you good' (that's my excuse and you're welcome to share it).

If you're a chocaholic, try Scharffen Berger's Rory's Volcano Cake. There's also Jamie Oliver's Chocolate & chestnut yule log. Or you can go the even more traditional route with James Beard's Christmas Pudding.

For a multi-course feast, a lighter (but still succulent) finish might be wise - like Jamie Oliver's Saffron-poached pears. Still too much to handle? Then go for an even subtler ending with James Beard's Syllabub or Champagne Sorbet.

After the kids are abed and the presents sneaked under the Christmas tree - or however else you celebrate the holidays - enjoy a quiet cup of Vianne's Spiced Hot Chocolate (from Joanne Harris). Pair the spiced drink with a plate of Mollie Katzen's Sesame Stars and Knopf Doubleday Holiday Cookies (don't forget to leave some for Santa too!)

Sources of Succulence

There are many more webspots for recipe samples. Many chefs - including Mario Batali, Mollie Katzen, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith - offer free recipes on their websites. Hachette Book Group offers a selection in their Thoughts for Food. Or drop in to Williams-Sonoma Recipes (including holiday menus); look up the James Beard Foundation; or scan the mouthwatering selection at

And if you want to go truly traditional get tips from our millennial feature, Christmas Recipes Recycled (though ingredients might be a bit tricky, especially housing and handling the cow). So, branch out this year; try some of these festive food freebies or find others online; eat a little, drink a little, and you'll find that being merry goes with the territory.

Whatever your faith, all of us at BookLoons wish you joy - and good
grub - during the holiday season and in the year to follow. Bon appetit!

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