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December 2012

Anita Kass's Fruity Festive Pomegranate Guacamole

Holiday Fruit Filled Guacamole 

I first tried this exotic guacamole a couple of years ago at my good friend Robert’s Christmas party. His mother was in town that year and helped prepare some most of the incredible food on the buffet table. You can read more about his holiday preparations (and other adventures) on his blog "Jet Setting on a Dime" (click here - http://bit.ly/RTBcZW). His mother Anita is the kindest woman and has had an extraordinary life -- a true treasure and absolute delight.  We bonded at that party by sharing recipe secrets and continue to correspond to this day about favorite foods and cooking techniques. When I asked if she would tell me how to prepare her famous pomegranate guacamole, she graciously emailed me the instructions, explaining that it was a recipe from her mom´s hometown, Guanajuato. I’ve taken the liberty to list some precise measurements, but in full disclosure, Anita sent the list of ingredients and just put “to taste” after each item (she wrote, “No real amounts, but you are an excellent cook and I am sure you can eyeball it perfectly”.) The addition of fruit in this version makes the dish truly unique and delicious, and the bright red pomegranate seeds not only add festive color, but also additional antioxidants. Serve your guacamole with homemade chips –known as totopos. Robert and his mother always serve homemade chips and stress the importance – “if you go to all the work of making this guacamole, don’t ruin it with store-bought chips”.

Download Anita Kass's Fruity Pomegranate Guacamole recipe


1/3 cup white onion, finely chopped

2-3 serrano chilies, finely chopped (including seeds, optional)

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

3-4 ripe avocados, ripe (preferably Hass)

2 -3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (optional)

3/4 cup fresh pear, peeled and diced

3/4 cup seedless green grapes, cut in half

½ cup fresh mango (or peach) peeled and diced

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (from a ripe pomegranate)

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional, for garnish, but Anita does not use it on hers)


1. Halve avocados, remove pit, and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Mash avocado flesh lightly with onion, Serrano chilies, and salt.

2. Sprinkle avocado mixture with lime juice (if using). Gently stir in pear, grapes, mango (or peach) and pomegranate seeds. Stir to combine and transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle top with additional pomegranate seeds. ( I mashed and served it in my authentic Molcajete which was given to me by Robert)

3. Serve with corn  chips – preferably homemade.

Holiday Fruit Filled Guacamole bowl
Holiday Fruit Filled Guacamole pomegranate

A photo of Anita's Pomegranate Guacamole with homemade yellow & blue corn “Totopos” -

Kass Guacamole1

Quick and Easy Puff Pastry French Palmiers

Palmiers 2 

This is a classic French cookie, found in almost every patisserie in Paris. They are super easy to make at home with the help of store bought puff pastry. Pepperidge Farm will work, but try find Dufour or Trader Joe’s Artisan puff pastry which I think has a much more buttery flavor.  The rolled dough will keep in the freezer until you’re ready to slice and bake the Palmiers, so it’s also a great “make-ahead” recipe. Makes 24 Palmiers.

Download Quick and Easy Puff Pastry French Palmiers recipe 

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cardamom

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed (Dufour or Trader Joe’s Artisan Puff Pastry work best)


1. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and salt and sprinkle 1/4 cup of the mixture on a clean work surface. Unroll 1 sheet of puff pastry and lay on sugared surface and sprinkle top with 3 tablespoons of sugar mixture. Top with second sheet of puff pastry and sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture. Using a rolling pin, gently roll pastry sheets into a 10x12” rectangle.

2. Roll both short sides of dough toward the center until they meet in the center, making sure to roll tightly and evenly. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove dough from freezer and slice half of the dough into twelve 3/8” pieces using a thin sharp knife. Place on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 ½ inches apart. Wrap remaining dough in plastic and freeze until ready to bake next batch. 

5. Bake until Palmiers begin to turn brown, about 14 minutes. Using spatula, flip cookies over, then rotate sheet and continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 4-6 minutes longer. Quickly transfer Palmiers to wire rack and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough to make 12 more Palmiers.

Palmiers pastry sheet sugar 

Palmiers rolled pastry 

Palmiers sliced sheet1 

Palmiers 3 

Palmiers baked sheet

Best Holiday Mulled Wine (or Glögg, Glühwein, Svařák)


For some reason I have found myself in Scandinavian and Eastern European countries during the winter months and although the weather can be a bit frigid, the experience has always been memorable.  Recent visits to Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Prague proved not only beautiful to see around the holidays, but each city also offered its own version of a warm libation to combat the cold temperatures – mulled wine. If you find yourself in just about any European destination in December you are bound to come across a local version of their mulled wine. Whether it’s Glühwein (in Netherlands and Germany), Glögg (in Scandinavia), or Svařák (Czech) this spiced wine concoction with warm your body and spirit. While the basis of mulled wine is pretty much the same, each region has a slightly different take on the recipe. The Swedes add raisins and almonds, as well as more sugar than most and usually a healthy dose of extra alcohol like Aquavit or vodka. In Germany, you´ll find a lighter, less sweet version – theirs has less sugar than Glögg and more spices like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. This is a great drink to make at home for parties and fill your house with a most comforting winter spice aroma - perfect for the holidays. (Note: if you want to include almonds and raisins, just add them after you strain the wine and let it stand for 10 minutes – ladle a few nuts and raisins into each cup when serving - Swedish style!).


3 cinnamon sticks (3 inches each)

10 whole cloves

10 whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice berries

1 star anise (optional)

2 bottles red wine, medium- or full-bodied

2 cups apple cider (optional)

4 strips orange zest removed with vegetable peeler, each strip about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide, cleaned of any white pith

1 inch piece fresh gingerroot, thinly sliced

¼ cup honey

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (if needed, to taste)

2 – 4 tablespoons brandy

(1/3 cup raisin and 1/3 cup whole blanched almonds, optional, see note above)

1. Toast cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice (and anise if using) in medium heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine, cider, orange zest, gingerroot, honey, and 1/4 cup sugar; cover partially and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour until wine is infused; do not boil.

2. Strain wine through fine-mesh strainer; return wine to saucepan and discard spices. Stir 2 tablespoons brandy into wine; taste and add up to 2 tablespoons more sugar and 2 tablespoons more brandy, if desired. Ladle wine into small mugs; serve immediately. (It is best served immediately after mulling but will keep fairly hot off heat, covered, for about 30 minutes. Leftover mulled wine can be reheated in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop.)

Andes Crème de Menthe Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownie Cookies

According to their site, Andes Crème de Menthe candies rank as the “number one after-dinner mint” delivering a “smooth blend of mint and chocolate flavors– the perfect post-meal treat”. They are particularly popular during the holidays and easy to find at your local grocery store. They help bring these easy chocolate “brownie” cookies to a new level of decadence. After removing the cookies from the oven, each one is topped with an Andes mint while still warm. The residual heat melts the candy, turning it into a spreadable “frosting” to swirl over each cookie.  They’ll be the hit of any holiday gathering cookie swap.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Download Andes Crème de Menthe Chocolate Brownie Cookies recipe

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

12 ounces Ghirardelli Bittersweet or Semisweet chocolate chips

2 ½ cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

48 Crème de Menthe Andes Mints, foil wrappers removed

1. Combine butter, brown sugar, and water in medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted, 3-4 minutes. Add chocolate chips and stir constantly until chips are melted. Transfer mixture to bowl of stand mixer and let cool for 10 minutes. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in separate bowl.

2. Fit mixer with paddle, add eggs to bowl with chocolate mixture, and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, and mix until just ­combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

3. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with half the dough, roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. Refrigerate remaining dough until ready to bake next batch. Bake until just set, 8 to 10 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.

4. After removing cookies from oven, immediately place 1 Andes Mint in center of each cookie. Let stand until chocolate is softened, about 5 minutes, then spread chocolate over tops of cookies. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely before serving, about 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and Andes Mints. (Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownie Cookies batter 

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownie Cookies baking 

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownie Cookies mint2 

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownie Cookies swirl 

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownie Cookies rack