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Saffron and Sass: A Few of Our Favorite Things—Holiday Tradition in the Kitchen

The last 2022 JeetJet from me is all about what food is supposed to be. Comforting, nurturing and enjoyable. I love the aromas and flavors to savor. One of the reasons for the season is the opportunity to prepare and share all the holiday goodies no matter what you celebrate.

Let’s start with the spices that are so nice to take dishes from to extraordinary. I am a big believer in minimizing the work and maximizing the enjoyment, so a simple tweak is doable, not daunting. On my list:

  • Anise seed and extract to provide that licorice flavor.
  • Cinnamon stick to add the comfort and aroma- add crumbled cinnamons stick to cider, tea, and coffee and certainly ground cinnamon adds a little spice and sweet to baked goods and oatmeal, as well as rice pilaf and sauces
  • Ground cardamon brings a unique twist to the dish- and enhances curries, chai and baked goods as well as added to dry rubs for meat and even soups
  • Grated orange peel/zest is the absolute best and my X-factor for baked goods, salads, salad dressings and even syrup or jam

Let’s not forget about the goodness of produce on the plate in this season of eating,.

Fennel has as lovely licorice taste and can be enjoyed shaved, mixed with greens and citrus for a light and colorful salad  with a citrus vinaigrette or baked with Bechamel sauce and grated parmesan for a satisfying plant based entrée or side dish. Sprezzatura café features fennel gratin on their holiday menu.

Cardamon -orange coffee cake and pizzelles

Anise flavored pizzelles are a hallmark of the holidays in many households. If you are looking for a lovely sweet to kick off a holiday morning or any brunch, try a coffeecake with cardamon and orange zest. I used full fat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. I cannot take credit for the recipe BUT I will definitely be making this one again.

All-aboard the board trend. I decided to go with a base of ricotta and do two variation: savory and sweet.

For the savory board. I whipped a container of full fat ricotta with sea salt, cracked ground pepper and Italian seasoning and spread it on a slate board-I shaped the ricotta in the shape of a round holiday ornament. And on top of the ricotta I alternated a row of halved grape tomatoes, chopped orange peppers and pesto. I used fig/olive crackers for the dippers but you could certainly add some veggies too.

For the sweet board, I whipped a container of full fat ricotta with a little orange juice, honey and orange zest and shaped a Christmas tree. NOTE- not perfect!!!! I topped it with pomegranate arils and pistachios and sprinkled orange zest. The dippers are ginger cookies and mini biscotti and you could certainly add some apple and pear slices too.

Many of you may include an adult beverage or three at your holiday festivities. Here are some suggestions for drinks to warm you up on our cold winter’s night in the BRrrrrgh.

Peppermint tea is a great non caffeinated choice and you can up the mint game by stirring your tea with a candy cane. Hot cocoa mixes with peppermint oil added are grand, or make hot cocoa and stir with a candy cane. Add cinnamon stick and orange zest to tea or cider fo a pour that delivers more in great taste.

But most of all, enjoy this time of the year. The food does not have to be perfect. Factor in some down time for you and yours. Happy Holidays n@.


Leslie Bonci

Leslie Bonci is a Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian, sports dietitian and owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie Bonci. She works with professional athletes ) surreal people) and real people to help them strategize, optimize and realize their goals. Leslie is an author, blogger and media expert. She and her husband Fred reside in Point Breeze and are the parents of two sons and grandparents to 3 little ones. 

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