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Gingerbread Houses for Your Christmas Morn!

Gingerbread Houses for Your Christmas Morn!

Popping in this Christmas morn with a parade of gingerbread houses to thank you for your loyal following. Hard to believe I have just passed four years of this journey. Thanks for coming along for the ride. My Christmas wish is that you will get 5 friends to subscribe! What’s yours?

I’m sending you a tiny, heavily friend-based, round up of some fabulous gingerbread houses that are making the cyber rounds. Two I spied online, but the rest are made by dear friends and colleagues. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Mid-Century Modern Gingerbread House

Made for charity by my Palm Springs (and former NYC) friend and stylist to the stars Vincent Beckley. I particularly love the lifesaver fence on the left!

Palm Springs gingerbread house

Good Cook Cookie Cutter Village Gingerbread Houses

Architect Cindie Flannigan for the Denise Vivaldo Group.

Cindy Fain Gingerbread Houses

Cindy Fain Gingerbread House

Cindy Fain Gingerbread House

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

Architect – FLW; Builder –  Melodie Dearden. See the behind the scenes on Melodie’s buildout. 

Neshannock Township School District FLW Fallingwater

More Mid-Century

This beauty, also by Vincent Beckley, is a replica of the Palm Springs Visitor’s Center, once the iconic Albert Frey gas station.  The original was built in 1965 and has a deserved place on the National Register of Historic Places!

Gingerbread Magic by Vincent Beckley. Palm Springs Visitor Cener, once the iconic Albert Frey gas station.Parker Meridian’s Gingerbread Competition

This New York hotel has a competition every year to raise funds for charity. $1 a vote. Vote early. Vote often! This was a couple years ago when the hurricane knocked down a crane across the street – hurricrane? Well, this is Candy Crane! How funny that it is a gingerbread construction site! Plus old Abe, all bundled up.

Parker Meridian Gingerbread House

Candy Crane

Lincoln Memorial Gingerbread House

Indiana University (or Leesa & David U)

Made by my friend Leesa Wilson Goldmuntz, complete with Theta house and favorite pub

Indiana University Gingerbread House

Something a Little Campy

Retro Camper by Sugar and Cloth, complete with DIY instructions. 

Gingerbread Camper

Would that I could, but my gingerbread skills are pretty much limited to kits and kids. My jam is collecting the most bizarre food ornaments. So settle in by the fire, and check out this video of my tree with this year’s selection from my food ornament stash, along with 2 or 3 vintage family treasures. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays….with deep gratitude for your support!

Food ornament Tree

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2019 Foodie Gift Guide Perfection

2019 Foodie Gift Guide Perfection

Holiday decor with macarons

In case you are worried that someone left their shoes on the table, rest assured this is an in-store display at Bergdorf’s. They always have the most colorful holiday displays, and its part of my holiday ritual to “window shop” inside the store. On Fifth Avenue, more is more and bigger is better. Not likely what you had in mind when shopping for your favorite gift, certainly not for the food lover, cook, chef wannabe, or hungry person in your life. Voilà! Foodie Gift Guide to the rescue!

Not actual sizeLast year, I started this guide on the perfect gifts for cooks, and included tips on how to buy them and what you should consider as you look for a special gift for the food lover in your life (or your own self). Be sure to check back to that post for more ideas. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information on my shop and affiliate relationship with vendors represented in the shop.)

Without further ado, let’s get shopping! Time now for the Foodie Gift Guide of 2019!

Gifts for Entertaining with a Sense of Whimsy

Children's Gingerbread Man ApronMy Aunt Kay made the most fantastic gingerbread men for us every Christmas. Perfectly thin and crisp with snip-of-raisin eyes and red hot buttons. And, I have made many a gingerbread house with nieces and nephews and neighborhood kids. Pro tip: lick the roof if you don’t want anyone trying to get a piece of yours.  Any child would treasure this little Gman apron for rolling up his sleeves and getting busy in the kitchen. It’s just one of many darling designs for cooks of all ages by Jesse Steele. Remember the Eiffel Tower print last year?

Kitchen-Towels-with-'tude: foodie gift guide

Don’t go bacon my heart? These towels just make me giggle. Way too funny. They are exclusively (not really) only for cooks with attitude. What about a combo of a Bacon-My-Heart Towel with last year’s Bacon for the Takin’ Tongs. I have a few peeps that would be happy with that! Probably won’t find two of these under the tree.


Love all things Mud Pie, and there are many from that gift line in my shop from which to choose. They add such whimsy to the table. This 80-ounce (2 1/2 quarts) Pineapple Pitcher is great for entertaining. Ceramic, with rind detail and a pineapple crown.

Gluttony-Peppermint-Bark CandleChef Bryce Murphree and his wife Maggie met in Aspen at the famed Little Nell hotel. After years in hospitality, they started tinkering in candles to improve the quality – better scents, cleaner burns, more eco friendly. And after learning to make their own essential oils, they found they were firmly rooted in culinary scents. All fragrances were food-based. Go figure! Gluttony Candles was born. I first visited them when this was just a home kitchen and spare room operation. (I bought six immediately!) The candles are packaged in 14-ounce food cans topped with colorful theme-related melted “crayon”. Not only are they adorable, but they smell amazing. So many flavors, many for the holidays. You will have to check them out for yourself. I also love “camp fire”. Note: Gluttony Candles are only available directly from their site or in local Dallas boutiques.

Mud Pie Kitchen Canisters

Finally, how about these clever canisters – 1, 2, 3 – with glass door knob handles? Footed Ceramic Canisters range in height from 7 1/2″ to 10″. Mud Pie, of course.

Gifts to Stuff a Stocking

OXO Ice ScoopThis may seem like the least sexy present ever, but I kid you not, NOBODY has an ice scoop in their ice maker, and EVERYBODY needs one. Why do we think it’s okay to run our dirty little hands through someone else’s ice bin. Even the folks with ice dispensers on their fridge doors, need to pull the whole bin out to fill a ice bucket or wine chiller from time to time, and hands are not the perfect helper. Got this idea from my sister and still love it!! OXO for the win.

Microplane Peeler

Back by popular demand! This was the 2018 stocking stuffer best hit. I got lots of rave reviews and dozens were stuffed in stockings. This peeler (by Microplane) changed my life. It’s just as sharp and wonderful as the Microplane grater is for zesting, but this time for peeling, with hands safely out of the way. Everyone needs one. Now.

2019 goes down in the record book as the year I discovered Earlywood. This collection of heirloom-quality kitchen and serving utensils is both highly Earlywood Spreader Setfunctional and elegant. Created using jatoba, hard maple, Mexican ebony, and bloodwood, the pieces are not only beautiful, strong and long-lasting, but also renewable. On the right is a three piece set with a spreader, a pan scraper and a spatula, as well as a four piece spreader set, shown to the left.

And while we are talking about spreaders, which can only bring to mind cheese!!!, I also discovered The Cheese Grotto this year. Jessica Sennett has all you need to care for, preserve and serve your cheeses perfectly. Here’s another set of spreaders that I love for their unique shape.

Essential Tools of the Trade

Souper Cubes Freezing TrayHere are just a few items that every good cook needs on hand. These Souper Cubes Freezing Trays are a wonderful way to manage stocks, bone broth, and soup freezer storage. The trays come in several sizes, holding up to 2 cups per well, with each well having four fill lines for portion control. They have tight fitting lids that maintain freshness and make them stackable. Made from food-grade silicone, the trays are BPA free and dishwasher safe. Classic Wooden Ladle

This handsome ladle could appear in almost every section of the foodie gift guide. I put it here because its essential. Another beautiful piece from Earlywood Designs, this is the sturdiest, most functional and design-winning ladle. It will last a lifetime. The Classic Ladle holds 3/4 cup level-fill, but nearly double if scooping up a heapin’ helpin’. Made in the USA (by the cutest woodworker ever) from sustainable hardwoods.

Beast Bowl Nutrition

Here are two books that are must-haves. Beast Bowl Nutrition, written by my friend Laura Reigel, lays out all the rules and tools for building unlimited protein-rich bowls. Tips, components, combinations, and dressings are all clearly and colorfully laid out in an easy-to-follow format, making meal assembly a snap.

Abra Berens‘ book Ruffage is a real treasure. With an Ruffage A Practical Guide to Vegetablesalphabetical listing of veggies A to Z, this book, based on her life on a Michigan farm, goes from confit to caramelized and everything in between. Simple techniques, combined with new creative combinations (smoked whitefish dressing!), are represented in the 100 recipes, each with 3 variations. You can’t just drool over the stunning photography, you must get up and get cooking!

Flavors that Pack a Punch

Truffle Hot Sauce

White Truffle Hot Sauce?  This lovely gift appeared this summer and I was skeptical for about 3 seconds, but immediately won over. It’s a good condiment to level up all your dishes. TRUFF is infused with white truffle and white truffle oil, with a pinch of organic coriander. Using the same chilis and agave as the black truffle version of the product, this hot sauce has game. Walla Essential Spice Set

James Beard nominated chef Meherwan Irani created Spicewalla to bring small batch, roasted and ground, then hand-packed, spices to market. Are your spices above the stove getting hot daily? Near a window getting oxidized from the sun? More than a year old? Time for a spice intervention. Spicewalla Kitchen Essential Spices include must-have single varietals and some signature blends. If you haven’t tasted a quality turmeric, prepare to have your world rocked.

DIY Artisan Hot Sauce Kit

For the do-it-yourselfers on your list, what about a DIY Hot Sauce Making Kit? Handcrafted in Portland, this kit has all you need to get started on your own special sauce. 6 glass bottles, 6 recipes and all the chilis, sugars, and vinegars that you will need. What a unique gift for the hot sauce enthusiast.

Classic Keepers – The Last One You will Ever Buy

Well that might be a slight exaggeration because these brands will no doubt introduce a pan, appliance, knife that is unlike others and you HAVE to add that to your collection. But, what I mean is that they will last forever, and you won’t need to replace THAT piece. To the non-cook, they might seem an absurd amount. (I remember when my otherwise generous Dad couldn’t justify Martha Stewart’s $40 Entertaining book, at double the price of other books). But great pieces ARE an investment, and like little else these days, they will last a lifetime if you take care of them. When you look at my preferred brands, you will see the same names over and over again. I have no sponsored relationship with these companies, but I really trust them to be the best. OXO for gadgets and tools; KitchenAid for countertop appliances; Staub, Lodge, Calphalon, Mauviel, and Le Creuset for pots and pans; Emile Henry for ceramics; and Henckels, Sabatier, and Wustof for cutlery. I’m sharing just a select few of my favorites here.

Staub12" Cast Iron Fry PanI STILL love all things Staub. This is a 12-inch fry pan. It comes in a rainbow of luscious colors, but I’m partial to cherry red. This pan has a unique interior matte surface that aids in browning. It has the heft of cast iron, but needs no special seasoning before using. It’s oven safe to 900°F, and its smooth enamel bottom makes it ideal for any cook surface, including induction, glass, and halogen.

Emile Henry TagineEmile Henry is my go-to for all things ceramic. This “flame-ceramic” tagine cooker is made to withstand mechanical shocks, temperature changes (freezer to oven is approved!), and color fading. With no metal, the cooker is non-reactive for all foods, and the high glaze makes it easy to cook with less fats. Tagines derive from the Moroccan dish of the same name, and represent a style of cooking with a conical lid that locks in steam and allows basting in the food’s own juices. I tried to bring a traditional clay Moroccan tagine back from Fez in my youth, and let’s just say it was not resistant to mechanical shocks (read: TWA baggage handlers).

Brick and Mortar Board

I’m probably half in love with this board from Brooklyn Butcher Blocks because the name is Brick and Mortar BoardMortar board? Get it??? But the other half is pure design envy. Gorgeous! This is an iconic collectible, hand-made in Brooklyn. Walnut forms the bricks and reclaimed mahogany the “mortar”, designed to pay homage to the aesthetics of Brooklyn’s plentiful brick buildings. This board measures approximately 12 x 18 x 2, but there are a variety of shapes and designs available on Amazon. And, pieces can be customized.

Gifts for the Lover of Wine and Cheese? Yes, Please!

Cheese Grotto (Fresco): Foodie Gift GuideIs there anyone on this list who doesn’t devour the whole brie in one sitting? Kolby, you can skip to the next section. Ever end up with tidbits of cheese you can’t find till entirely too late at the way-back of the fridge? The Cheese Grotto is for you. It’s the perfect way to store cheeses, letting them breathe while retaining moisture. Jessica Sennett has designed this line with four sizes, varying by available fridge space. This handsome model (Fresco) is for the metropolitan among you, a mid-size version. It holds 3 to 4 pounds of cheese, and features a clay brick for humidity control and a vaulted ceiling for condensation control. The shelves are removable to use as serving pieces. It’s a stunning collection with copper, leather, birch and bamboo. Nothing like it on the market and bonus – Made in the USA!!

Gabriel Glas all purpose wine glass

Repeat offender from the 2018 list – the Gabriel-Glas wine glass. This is the only wine glass  you will ever need. This Austrian-made lead-free crystal is both delicate and elegant while also being sturdyhttps://amzn.to/3x5TdOG and dishwasher safe.  It’s a real game-changer! No longer do you need a different shape for different wines. The broader base of the glass’ lower bowl is a “bouquet-driver,” while the slightly conical design concentrates the aromas, making it ideal for both red and white.

Slate Cheese Board and KnifeThis dishwasher safe New York State slate round makes a Stunning Cheese Server. Available with one bamboo spreader, which I have shown as a set of four above. What a lovely hostess gift or wedding present, or dare I say it, a gift for yourself. You were good this year, right? The 11-inch round has been treated with food-safe mineral oil and comes with a piece of soapstone for noting the cheese names. Another wonderful find from The Cheese Grotto.

Foodie Gift Guide to Pay it Forward

And no Foodie Gift Guide would be complete without a nod to being big-hearted! Do you have people on your list that don’t want a thing? Or they’d rather pay it forward and help others. Here are a couple options that fall into two groups: some charitable ideas that have to do with hunger, nutrition, and sustainable solutions, as well as some home-made culinary treats that show you are cooking with love. What about both? A gift to charity, with a little something yummy on the side?

Kicking it off with a few home-made culinary treats. Ingredients and spice jars are both linked within each recipe post.

Zesty spice rub

Here’s a zesty steak rub that happens to be delicious on a ginormous Tomahawk steak. And don’t forget the tasty combo of citrus salt and pepper in da house. Giving something that is home-made is always appreciated, and you will likely get bonus points for giving a gift that doesn’t need to be dusted.

Best Cheese Crisp on a wooden board

These seeded cheese crisps are just as easy as they are delicious. Just mix together two grated cheeses, 5 seeds and some salt and bake for 7 – 8 minutes.

Making a Kahlua and Cream Cocktail

And this is a just published recipe for homemade Kahlúa. Mix four ingredients, store it in a cool dark place, and you are all set. More tips on how to use it and full recipe details are available in the post.

Warm Thai Peanuts

What about taking some spiced nuts to your next party? Here are Warm Thai Peanuts, for which I won an award in a professional chef’s recipe contest. Take them warm to the party or let them cool and box them up in cute holiday tins as a culinary treat!

CWS Best Gift GuideI’m a big fan of giving to charities in lieu of gifts. I’m on the Executive Committee of the Board of Church World Service, a global relief agency with a 73-year track record committed to making sure there is #Enough4All  They are focused on sustainable solutions for hunger, poverty, climate change, and those displaced.

Browse the Best Gift Guide and see how far your dollars go. $15 rehabilitates a malnourished child in Indonesia, and just $22 buys 500 fishlings in Honduras. This year Giving MachineCWS is featured in Giving Machines placed around the world. I’m not Matt Damon and I didn’t buy a zoo, but I did buy a pig near Lincoln Center. Like a vending machine, but doling out so much more than Cheetos, gifts purchased here serve the greater good. See if there is a machine near you. What a great way to show the little people in your life that we think about others and help where we can?

Ration Challenge

This summer I joined 40,000 people worldwide living for one week on the rations of a Syrian refugee displaced to a Jordan camp. It was not easy, and it was definitely humbling, but it was just one week. What about those that spend the average 23 years that refugees spend in camp? While the Ration Challenge fundraising is over, you can learn more, provide food and medical care for refugees by supporting the work of Church World Service.

giving machine trio

Well, that’s a wrap on yet another shopping season. As always, please comment below and let me know as you check the boxes on your shopping list.  And, of course, let me know if you find something in the best gift catalog! May your shopping be stress-free and your holiday joy-filled! Wishing you all the best for this season!!

Penguins on a holiday march
This post contains affiliate links.  I am continuously researching and testing new equipment and plan to relaunch the shop on my website with my newest favorite items (over 150 items on my list to date). The items above are just a few of the many items I recommend. They are all items I own and use regularly and ♥ L.U.V. love. Purchases made with these links earn an-oh-so-small advertising fee, so…thank you in advance! I regularly get questions from readers needing help making a purchase decision. Feel free to leave a question in the comment section, and I will answer and update the shop with the new item, letting other readers benefit from our joint research.
The Amazon links in the shop take you directly to your Amazon account, ready to Prime ship, if that’s how you and your browser do Amazon. Please, note: I try to pick the least expensive offering that is Prime-eligible, but Amazon offerings are ever changing. So, remember that my recommendation is for the product and brand, and shop around as you always do. I always read reviews, but I trust my own expertise over random and possibly having-a-bad-day comments. Who you gonna believe – Foshizzle2817 or me? 

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2019. All rights reserved.

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Homemade Kahlúa: Easy “How To” Holiday Gift

Homemade Kahlúa: Easy “How To” Holiday Gift

Kahlua cocktail

Sure, sure, sure. You could run to the liquor store and pick up a bottle of Kahlúa and nobody will kick you out of the party. It’s plenty respectable as the number one coffee liqueur in the world with a provenance dating back to 1936 Veracruz, Mexico. (As the story goes, four guys pooled resources and talents and whipped up the first batch using Arabica beans, rum, local sugar and vanilla. Four years later, Kahlúa had hit the US shores). But think of the approving nods and admiration you will get if you roll in with a handcrafted hostess gift of homemade Kahlúa and a knowing “I made this” glow about you. Mic drop. The crowd murmurs.

To tell you the truth, I had never considered making this until one of you, dear readers, asked me about it recently. I was casting about for a homemade culinary treat like the ones I have shared over the years (and oh so conveniently linked below) and it hit me as pure genius. I have done spices, candies, crackers, but never a liqueur. I had to do a bit of research and only then realized it is quite brilliant, because unlike the commercially bottled stuff, you can use high quality ingredients and tweak it to your own desired sweetness and ingredient selection.

Tito's Vodka, Lavazza Espesso, Dark Brown Sugar and Vanilla beans

What’s in Kahlúa?

For SURE, traditional Kahlúa is made with rum – white or dark would work. It’s Mexican, for crying out loud. But there is already so much sugar in the recipe – I have seen recipes that double the amount of sugar I use – that I feel using a more neutral spirit, like vodka, provides a more rounded taste. But since you are cheffing it today, consider a small batch Bourbon, vanilla rum, or even a spiced spirit. I am a longtime believer that Garbage In/Garbage Out rules the kitchen, so choose a quality ingredient.

All coffee beans are either Arabica or Robusta. Most quality cafes and coffee brands use Arabica for its sweeter, more mellow taste, with undertones of fruit and berries. There is a bright acidity to the finish. Robusta is more likely to be found in mass marketed and instant coffees, and it is more harsh, with raw grain and peanut notes and low acidity. Can you guess which one I insist upon?? A lot of Kahlúa recipes will call for instant coffee. My guess is that is how you can easily control the brew strength – more crystals, less water. But you will get a more sophisticated and smoother blend if you make coffee or espresso the old fashioned way, using Arabica beans with a heavier hand. I used Lavazza espresso beans and added 50% more than standard coffee strength. The reader that started this all had flown in Kona from Hawaii. Ooh la la!

Ingredient three (of four) in homemade Kahlúa is sugar. You can find recipes that call for white, brown, molasses, even Stevia or monkfruit. I’m a bit of a purest with avoiding sugar substitutes. The sugar not only adds sweetness – no surprise – but it has a critical role in the final viscosity. This recipe will get slightly thicker as it sits for a couple weeks, but it will not be syrupy like commercial brands. To my taste, that yields a better bar component that can be used in myriad ways. If you like that syrupy, cloying sweetness, by all means add more sugar, up to double. I chose an organic dark brown sugar for its molasses flavor notes.

Lastly, the vanilla bean. They have gotten quiet pricey, so sub with a splash of real vanilla extract if you must. If you make this all in one big jug for the two weeks of curing, you might want to strain out the bean, if using, before bottling. But if you are going straight to the gift bottle as you make it, scrape all the seeds into the batch and cut the beans into enough pieces to put one piece in each bottle.

bottles to fill with homemade kahlua

I have recently become a sucker for Health-Ade Kombucha which conveniently comes in cute 16-ounce brown glass bottles with resealable lids (with a nice little anchor on top), as well as a 64-ounce jug. I had enough bottles to cure in the big jug and then transfer out into small bottles after curing for two weeks. If you have to buy them, there are plenty of options on Amazon. (affiliate link)

Due to travel, I left this bottling in the capable hands of a beverage tasting professional. The report back yesterday after two weeks of swirling and agitating (inverting to move any sugar settling) was “smooth, great coffee undertones, balanced” followed by “having another taste…….I like it.” 🙂

Bottle Top with anchor, on brown bottle, tied with raffia

Kahlúa Flavor Harmony

For anyone who is a coffee lover, the number of options for marrying coffee with other flavors is no surprise. Just think of the constant rollout at Starbucks and see how they have paired it. I list several here just to spur your creativity. Consider these inspo for cocktails, drizzles over ice cream, or savory dishes where you might want to add in a hit of Kahlúa.

  • orange
  • salted caramel
  • mint mocha
  • vanilla
  • pumpkin spice
  • maple
  • chili chocolate

What Can I Do with Homemade Kahlúa?

Ohhhhhhhh, so you saved some for yourself, now did ya? I got you covered!! There are so many ways to use Kahlúa beyond cocktails, though that is oddly all I see on the official Kahlúa site. Over the years, I have worked with dozens of spirit brands, and it’s always a struggle to get them away from cocktail recipes. It’s such a narrow perspective! One of my clients – Carolans Irish Creme – thought outside the box. I developed all kinds of recipes for them, from brunch to BBQ to breads to sides. So with that spirit 🙂 in mind, here are a few cocktails and a number of other ways where Kahlúa and you might journey. Let me know what you try! Take the road less traveled, made so much tastier with homemade Kahlúa!

Handmade Gift Ideas

I know that spirits are not for all my readers and so I have listed below some of the other culinary gift treats you can find on my website. Here are a few quick and easy things you can make to delight your friends and family:

This all started with a reader request to sort through the madness of the internet. I ❤️ these questions. Feel free to leave a comment and raise your hand. Here to help!!


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Making a Kahlua and Cream Cocktail with kahlua on the rocks in a glass and a milk bottle

Homemade Kahlúa: Easy “How To” Holiday Gift

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 64 ounces 1x


Nothing says holidays like a handcrafted culinary treat. This simple-to-make homemade Kahlúa recipe is festive in brown glass bottles, tricked out with customized ties and labels. 


  • 4 cups strong black coffee
  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 4 cups) dark brown sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 cups vodka (or rum)

4 16-ounce dark color glass bottles with resealable lids


Prepare the bottles by running them through the dishwasher and having them hot when ready to fill.

Prepare strong coffee and pour into a large mixing bowl or stockpot. While still hot, add the brown sugar. Stir until dissolved. 

Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the coffee/sugar mixture, cutting the remaining bean into four equal pieces. Distribute the pieces of bean between the bottles. 

Add the vodka to the coffee/sugar mixture and stir. 

Using a funnel, divide the Kahlúa among the four bottles (you may have a little extra – for the chef, of course). Let the bottles cool to room temperature, then tightly seal with the caps.

Store in a cool, dark place for two weeks (four is even better), and once a week agitate, turning them upside down and right side up to move any settled sugar around. 


If you find yourself short on time to have this made and stashed for 2+ weeks, how about attaching a cute little note saying “don’t drink til New Year’s Eve”? Nobody is going to judge if you give a gift with a little more resting time required. Let’s make this no stress, ok?

Traditionally Kahlúa is made exclusively with Arabica bean coffee. I made mine just short of espresso strength using a high-quality blend from Lavazza.

Choose a good quality spirit to mix with. As the kitchen saying goes, Garbage In/Garbage Out. Only here it’s Garbage Out with a whole lotta sugar, should you reach for rot gut. 

I used Wholesome brand dark brown organic sugar which added a rich molasses flavor. As you can see in the photo above, its texture is more coarse than refined. Feel free to adjust sugar quantity to your taste. This yields a slightly less syrupy product than if commercially produced. But if you don’t mind a Kahlúa thinner still and you want to feature the coffee flavor, then you can cut the sugar back further, up to half of what I call for, using only 3/4 pound brown sugar.

Drink responsibly and enjoy!

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Cocktail
  • Method: No cook
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: homemade kahlúa

Kahlua and Cream

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Creamy Leek and Rainbow Chard Gratin: A Thanksgiving Must-Have

Creamy Leek and Rainbow Chard Gratin: A Thanksgiving Must-Have

It’s the Gobble, Gobble time of year already. Is it me or does Thanksgiving come every 4 months now? I say it like it’s a bad thing, but really what could be tastier? All those family favorite recipes coming out of semi-retirement. This year I have a new recipe, but it’s inspired by a family fave, as well as time spent during my year cooking in France. It seemed like something the French might serve. Introducing creamy rainbow chard gratin.

We grew up with a local turkey farm over the hill and always went to pick out our bird. The backing track of gobblers is a sound I won’t soon forget. Growing up surrounded by farmland, this was the way of life. But despite the fresh birds, there was not an abundance of winter produce available. Hence the frozen spinach casserole that started this ball rolling. At least it was green, we’d think, on an otherwise brown food day.

I\'ll take that one. Katy and Richard at the local turkey farm circa 1961

Rainbow Chard and Leeks

You have no doubt seen Swiss chard in the markets and at your local grocery. But have you noticed the red chard with its magenta stems? Or the rainbow chard with stripey fuchsia, navel orange, taxi-cab yellow and granny apple green? The colors are magnificent. 

Chard in all the colors of the rainbow

This dish is inspired by my Aunt Mary’s spinach and artichoke heart casserole. I’ve made it so many times I can do it blindfolded and so have many of my friends. (I have included the original in the recipe card notes below). This is the first Thanksgiving without Aunt Mary, and she has left big shoes to fill. I spent most of the last 5 or 6 Thanksgivings prepping next to her, where she was in charge of dressing, a family apple compote recipe and gravy. Oh, and polishing the candlesticks. Gamama, as the kids called her, spent most of two days giving some old silver candlesticks the royal treatment. Mary never met a stranger, and I am confident she might have swindled the latex gloves required for silver polish manicure preservation right off the hands of her TSA agent. They never saw her coming. She had to be the only one passing bittersweet branches for the centerpiece, freshly clipped from her Indiana garden, through the CTX machine. She held court in the kitchen and the rest of us served at the pleasure. Whatever else I contributed, you can be sure that the spinach and artichoke hearts dish was on the list. 

I wanted to pay homage to that dish but zhoosh it up a bit. She was all color, so as I debated what changes to make, rainbow chard raised its hand and said “Pick me, pick me!” I considered keeping the art hearts, but didn’t think the flavor was the ideal match, and I figured they would overwhelm in the texture department. So instead I swapped out the onion for some leeks. I also added some Gruyere to make it a bit more creamy – and then of course, I added bacon. Of course I did. 

Yellow chard leaf

Cleaning Chard and Leeks

You might be tempted to look at the prep time and think ain’t nobody got time for that, but I assure you it is worth the effort. Plus – for the meal prep WIN – you can do this all the day before and just bake it off while your turkey is resting and as you carve. 

Both leeks and chard can be sandy, so I wanted to just reassure you with tips on the best way to get the grit out. For details on how to clean a leek, check out this post. For the rainbow chard, place the leaves in the sink or a large bowl, and fill with cool water. Let them soak, then lift them from the sink, rinsing, leaving any grit at the bottom of the sink or bowl. Don’t try to pour the water out of a bowl, as that will just move the grit and sand back into the leaves. Always lift them out! Dry on towels or spin, in batches, in a salad spinner. 

Once cleaned and dried, trim and remove the end of each stem, then cut a “V” in each leaf to remove the full stem. Slice the stems into 1/2″ wide pieces and set aside. Stack the leaves and roll tightly into a long tube shape, then cut cross-wise into 1/4 – 1/2″ ribbons. It will be quite voluminous at this point and you might think you need another baking dish, but it will cook down and fit in a 3-quart casserole. 

Rainbow Chard Saute

Chard Gratin

From here, the chard gratin is just a sauté of stems and leeks, a wilt of leaves, and a stir in of sour cream and Gruyere. Top with some grated Parmesan and crumbled bacon and you are oven-ready. You can wrap it up and put in the fridge for a day at this point or bake it off now (slightly less time) and reheat when ready to serve. 

Gratin is the French word for a dish that has melted cheese or bread crumb topping, turned golden brown. Remember the Betty Crocker box mix of Au Gratin potatoes? The cheese was already in the mix in powdered form. This dish doesn’t have breadcrumbs – though I definitely considered a Panko dusting atop – but it does have real Parmesan (I used Reggiano) that “goldens” up quite nicely. 

sauteed chard leaves and stems

If you were Aunt Mary, you might now kick back with a house Chardonnay and a glass of ice and nurse that for the remainder of the meal!!! Gobble. Gobble.

Full Thanksgiving Menu!!

You got this trimmin’, but what else to serve? Don’t worry – I got you covered. We have everything you need for complete and tasty meal perfection.  If you are ever in doubt, there is a search button on the top of the site that will take you where you need to go. But today – holiday special – I have curated the list you are most likely to need!

The Shop That Has It All!!

Do you have everything you need to stage a flawless Thanksgiving? I just happen to have a shop on my website with links to all the must-have kitchen equipment and gear you will need to pull off  holiday success, mostly available with Amazon Prime shipping! This shop is filled with only things that I NEED and use and are called for in my recipes. KatyKeck.com is an affiliate marketer for Amazon and other sites, so we may earn a small fee on your purchase. (Thank you!) For full details, see the privacy policy

You are just fooling yourself if you try to pull off Thanksgiving without these things 🙂 There’s also a good assortment of hostess gifts that are sure to be put to immediate use. 

rainbow chard ready to eat 

Have a blessed holiday and please let me know what you tried. Comment below or tag me on social!


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Casserole of rainbow chard and leek gratin, with spoon out

Thanksgiving Must-Have: Creamy Leek and Rainbow Chard Gratin

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6 - 8 1x


This rainbow chard gratin is inspired by my Aunt Mary’s spinach casserole. She was quite colorful and deserves the rainbow. Packed with flavor from caramelized leeks and some nutty Gruyere, with a touch of the creamy goodness of sour cream, this will be the newest must-have on your Thanksgiving menu.


  • 2 pounds of rainbow chard (approximately 23 bunches)
  • 4 Tablespoons of butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 leeks, split lengthwise, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 4 ounces Gruyere, grated
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 4 pieces of bacon, cooked and coarsely crumbled


Prepare the chard: Place the chard leaves in the sink or a large bowl and fill with cool water. Let them soak, then lift from the sink, rinsing, leaving any grit at the bottom of the sink or bowl. Dry on towels or spin, in batches, in a salad spinner. 

Separate the stems and leaves: Trim the root end of each stem, then cut a “V” in each leaf to remove the full stem. Cut the stems into 1/2″ wide pieces and set aside. Stack the leaves and roll tightly into a long tube shape, then cut cross-wise into 1/4 – 1/2″ pieces. 

Cook the chard: Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan. Add the stems and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 – 12 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl. 

Add half the leaves and a drop (1 – 2 teaspoons) of water. Cover and cook until wilted, about 4 -5 minutes. Remove the lid and let any accumulated water cook off. Transfer to the bowl with the stems. Repeat with the remaining leaves. 

Return the first batch of leaves and the stems to the sauté pan and stir to combine, cooking off any excess moisture. Season with salt and pepper. Return to the mixing bowl.

Cook the leeks: Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in the sauté pan and add the leeks. Cook over high heat for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Add to the bowl with the chard. 

Mix: Add the sour cream and Gruyere to the bowl and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning as needed. 

Finish the chard gratin (bake now or refrigerate for up to 24 hours): Transfer the mixture to a buttered 8 x 12″ or 3 quart casserole. Top with the grated Parmesan and crumbled bacon. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to one day. (Thanksgiving prep for the win!)

Bake in a pre-heated 350oF oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.


This is a great make-ahead dish, especially since it takes a bit of time to clean and cut the chard. You can get the majority of the prep done a day ahead and then bake it off when ready to serve. If it’s Thanksgiving and the oven is very busy, you can bake this off while the turkey is resting and being carved. 

Aunt Mary approves!

Creamed spinach and artichoke hearts: If you find yourself short on time, you have my permission to go for the original which is really quick to make. Sauté one chopped onion in 2 Tablespoons of butter. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add two boxes of frozen spinach (thawed and well-squeezed) and one box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed. Stir in one pint of sour cream and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread into a buttered 8 x 8″ baking dish (or similar sized soufflé dish) and sprinkle 1 cup Parmesan on top. Bake in a preheated 350oF oven for 30 – 40 minutes. Serves 8. 

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Stovetop + Oven
  • Cuisine: French

Keywords: chard gratin, leeks

Casserole pan of leek and rainbow chard gratin

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2019. All rights reserved.

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Seasonings’ Greetings!

Seasonings’ Greetings!

Merry Christmas...at home...Seasonings' Greetings

I hope you are all cozied up by the fire and in full view of the tree on this fine morning! Me? I gotta get a move on in the kitchen. People are comin’!! What’s that you ask? Did Santa come last night? He did! He stopped by my house long enough to fire up the grill and pop a cold one. Santa is a hungry fella! And then, just as quickly as he arrived, he was off again to spread joy and seasonings’ greetings to all the good little boys and girls.

Santa on the grill - seasonings' greetingsSeasonings’ Greetings with Gratitude!

I want you to know how grateful I am for your support and for being a loyal follower. I have much to celebrate, thanks to you. I send my love, warm appetizers, and cold bubbly. From my kitchen to yours, Seasonings’ Greetings!

seasonings' greetingsAnd while we’re being hopeful, how about some Peas on Earth? Wishing you a joyous holiday with family and friends, and peas & prosperity in the days ahead.

Best, Katy

peas on earth

And don’t miss this year’s line up of food ornaments – check out my album on Facebook

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

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Prosecco Cocktail to the Rescue: Santa’s Sparkler!

Prosecco Cocktail to the Rescue: Santa’s Sparkler!

Santa Sparkler

I am here to the rescue. Relax! I got you covered. Not just any old Prosecco cocktail, but Santa’s Sparkler here to save the day. You have got to be anxiously running down that list and back up, checking it once and checking it twice!! Sound familiar? Tree trimmed?

trim that tree

Check. Stockings hung? Check. Then why do I feel like this? 

Swipe Right

Can’t quite get this magic all in sync! I feel like a monkey handing out suckers. Okay, not really but this photo is too good to waste. Wait. Does that monkey carry a Gucci handbag?

Welcome to candyland

You haven’t heard of Santa’s Sparkler before? Possibly because I just made that name up. I was going to go with Santa Sipper but that seemed questionable and Santa’s Helper seemed enabling. Sparkler because it’s got a little bubbly, but then I dose it with something stronger, and a couple of aperitifs to boot. I’m just here for the aromatics. I know not all of you are drinkers and I appreciate that, so please enjoy the random photos and see how many reflections of me and my cell phone you can find in them. #onvacation And while you take a gander at the photos, look at the special ornament in the top photo mixed in and among the flutes. Anybody? That is a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraising ornament from their series of Broadway Legends from some years back. That is Angela Lansbury in her 1966 version of Mame, the Miss in the Moon. See the trumpet against her leg? So cool!

Prosecco Cocktail

Holidays are stressful enough, and I wanted to bring you a little cheer before you throw the wrench at your beautiful tree when the wheels literally fall off the bike you’re assembling. We’ve all been there. Take a deep breath, take a sip, and double down on getting the job done. 

I like to think of this Prosecco cocktail as the UN of holiday cocktails. A regular Aperol Spritz makes total sense – everything is Italian. And TBH I photographed just that some months ago to bring it to you, but by the time I got to December I felt it wasn’t enough for you, my people. I needed to zhuzh it up a bit. Enter the multi-cultural line up of bevvies. I am normally a bit opposed to cross cultural-ing food, but I saw a drink like this on a menu and it made me want to tinker with the classic Aperol Spritz. I wanted something to balance the bitter of Aperol, and Lillet sprung to mind. Both are orange-based, but the flavors vary pretty significantly.

Lillet (I’m using Blanc which is a little yellowish) is made near Bordeaux, France (since 1872) and is a maceration of sweet and bitter oranges, quinine (adds a bit of bitterness, but overall this is more floral and citrus-y), and barks. The fruits start their maceration in alcohol, and once the key flavors are extracted, they are pressed and mixed with wine, then aged in oak barrels. 

Aperol is of course Italian, from Padua, and that is a country with a fine appreciation for bitter – a far cry from the sacharin-y sweet palate we Americans favor. (I do not resemble that remark.) Aperol is just about to celebrate its 100th birthday, and its secret formula is unchanged since two brothers took over the biz from their father and created this aperitif. It too uses sweet and bitter oranges, but it also includes flowers, rhubarb, roots, and herbs in the recipe. Taste the two side by side and you will find they make a real cute couple.

Santa’s Sparkler – a twist on the classic Prosecco Cocktail, Aperol Spritz

Rosemary, pomegranate and orange garnish


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Glass of prosecco with orange slice and pomegranate arils, with a glass pitcher of the drink including rosemary sprigs

Prosecco Cocktail to the Rescue: Santa’s Sparkler!

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Pitcher serves 5


Think of this Prosecco cocktail as the UN of holiday cocktails – Italy meets France meets Iceland. The pomegranate and rosemary add a holiday vibe, but it’s festive and bubbly enough to drink all year round. 


  • Vodka, I prefer Reyka or Ketel One
  • Aperol
  • Lillet Blanc
  • Prosecco or Sparkling Wine


  • Pomegranate Arils
  • Orange Slices
  • Rosemary Sprigs


Measurements by the glass:

  • 2 Tablespoons Vodka
  • 2 teaspoons Aperol
  • 1 teaspoon Lillet Blanc
  • 5 ounces Prosecco or Sparkling Wine

Measurements using one bottle of Prosecco:

  • 5 ounces Vodka
  • 3 Tablespoons Aperol
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Lillet Blanc
  • 1 750-ml bottle Prosecco or Sparkling Wine

If making by the glass, add one ice cube to a champagne flute. Add the vodka, Aperol, and Lillet Blanc to the flute and swizzle until chilled.  I like to leave the cube in, but remove if you prefer. Top with Prosecco.

If making a pitcher, add the vodka, Aperol, and Lillet Blanc to a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into the pitcher and top with Prosecco.

Garnish with orange slices, pomegranates and rosemary sprigs. 


For the orange slices, slice as thinly as you can and then cut each slice in half, then the halves into three wedges, making sure that each is small enough to fit in a flute. I love to use Cara Cara oranges or Blood Oranges if they are in season…like now!

Making quantity: If I am making this for a party, I make enough of the vodka/Aperol/Lillet mixture for the number of bottles I plan to serve and keep it chilled. Then when I open a new bottle of Prosecco, I add just under a cup (7 ounces) of the mixture per bottle of bubbles. 

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Cocktail
  • Method: Mixology
  • Cuisine: Holiday

Keywords: Prosecco cocktail

Hope you enjoy your holidays – responsibly – and find a little cheer in Santa’s Sparklers! And you might still be able to squeak in some Amazon orders from my Cook’s Best Gift Guide, if you click fast! I know for a fact you can make those charitable donations up to the very last minute. 

Counting down the last five days of the sixth year of Facebook ornament “advent calendar”. If you haven’t seen it, please take a gander. Self-proclaimed world’s largest private food ornament collection! 


Aperol and Prosecco

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