31 Ways to Win December

Sesame Bagel Breakfast Casserole
Photo: © Christina Holmes

It's the most wonderful time of the year (cue the music) but it can also be the most hectic. So we've got 31 genius seasonal tips, one for each day in December, to help you master the month.

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December 1: Detox to Retox

Petal-and-Berry Beauty Tonic
© Christina Holmes

Start the month with rejuvenating superfruit elixirs from Amanda Chantal Bacon’s Moon Juice Cookbook. Try her Petal-and-Berry Beauty Tonic or Cilantro-Celery Punch.

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December 2: Lots of Cooks in the Kitchen is a Good Thing

Margherita Pizza

Put everyone to work with a make-your-own pizza party. Just follow our simple guide for perfect Neapolitan-style pizza.

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December 3: Host a Christmas Tree Tailgate

Caramel Pecan Bars

Take a page out of chef Ken Oringer’s holiday playbook and turn tree cutting into a party. On the menu:

- Deliciously spiced hot mulled cider

- Warm and crunchy Cuban sandwiches with tomato jam

- Hearty black bean and quinoa salad

- Refreshing avocado, grapefruit and hearts of palm salad

- Gooey caramel pecan bars

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December 4: Own the Cookie Swap

Almond Crescents
© Christina Holmes

These butter cookies from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Dorie’s Cookies, are rich and crumbly crowd-pleasers. Dust with colorful granulated sugar for more holiday pop.

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December 5: Curl Up with a Cozy Cocktail

Tante's Medicine
© Wendell T. Webber

Sip one of our favorite warming drinks while you finish up all that online shopping:

Tante’s Medicine is super comforting, no prescription required.

The Peppermint Paddy is inspired by one of our favorite classic candies.

Or go for a delicious mocktail like Hot Buttered Lemon.

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December 6: Take On Taco Tuesday

Chicken Tinga Tacos

If you haven’t worked it into your repertoire yet, what are you waiting for? It’s a fast and easy way to feed a crowd whether it’s your book club’s gift swap or family movie night.

- Chicken Tinga

- Steak

- Fish

- Chorizo and Potato

- Crunchy Tofu

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December 7: Wine Shop Like a Boss

December 7: Wine Shop Like a Boss
© Getty Images/Image Source

F&W’s Ray Isle selects the perfect bottle for any kind of host:

LIFE OF THE PARTY: 2015 Espelt Old Vines Garnacha Blanc ($12) This white is the perfect party wine to bring or to pour for your own steady stream of guests. And you won’t go bankrupt in the process.

INFAMOUS REGIFTER: 2014 Josh Cellars Legacy Red ($15) This tasty red blend says “for you, and only you” with a free personalized label (joshcellars.com).

UNRELENTING HIPSTER: 2015 Donkey & Goat Ramato Pinot Gris ($28) A white cool enough to impress even a sommelier.

FAN OF BIG REDS: 2014 Hess Collection Lion Tamer Napa Valley Red ($40) Malbec rounds out Cabernet and Petite Sirah in this lush red blend.

INTIMIDATING BOSS: 2012 Château Haut-Bailly ($80) An elegant, old-school Bordeaux worthy of a splurge.

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December 8: Host Like a Pro

Host Like a Pro
© Con Poulos

A signature cocktail, inexpensive wine and a few simple hors d’oeuvres is all it takes to create weekend vibes (with weeknight effort). Happy Thursday!

Try a seasonal Tangerine Collins; a bold and refreshing scotch cocktail; or a tangy Champagne mojito.

The best bang for your buck wines.

Some of our favorite crowd pleaser hors d’oeuvres include melty cheese dip with crispy mushrooms, mini smoked salmon croque monsieur, creamy eggplant and white bean crostini.

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December 9: Netflix and Snack

Popcorn with Sesame-Glazed Pistachios
© John Kernick

Binge watch your favorite shows or holiday movies with these updates on classics:

Sweet-and-salty popcorn with sesame glazed pistachios.

Can’t decide between pizza and nachos? You don’t have to with Mexican pizza.

Add umami to potato chips with nori salt.

Creamy, crunchy ice cream bonbon pops.

Christina Tosi’s candy-pretzel snack mix.

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December 10: Share the Holiday Spirit

Williams-Sonoma Bar Cart
© Williams-Sonoma

Cocktail hour will be a lot more fun with these gifts.

Once impossible to find and now blissfully available, Braulio amaro is the ideal after-dinner sipper: Its 140-year-old recipe is less bitter than Fernet and not as sweet as Ramazzotti. $50; astorwines.com.

Glen Scotia, one of just a few remaining Scotch distilleries in iconic Campbeltown, Scotland, is now in the United States. $76; parkaveliquor.com.

Stonecutter ages its gin in bourbon barrels to give it the perfect balance of juniper, cardamom, orange peel, caramel and oak. $55; stonecutterspirits.com.

Made with Barolo grapes, Alessio Chinato sweet vermouth is great for sipping or for cocktails. From $28 for 375 ml; klwines.com.

Make over your martinis with lemon-peel-stuffed Gordal olives. $10; tienda.com.

Check out more of our favorite cocktail-inspired gifts.

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December 11: Make a Simple Sunday Supper

Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower
© Christina Holmes

With holiday shopping and parties, football games and everything else sucking up your December weekends, save time with these easy, one-pot meals.

- Soy-Braised Short Ribs

- Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

- Beef and Farro Soup

- Sausage and Potato Pan Roast

- Roasted Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Kale

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December 12: Double Down on Dinner

Black Bean and Chorizo Soup
© Christina Holmes

This hearty one-pot recipe, from Kathy Gunst’s cookbook Soup Swap, is ideal for long days and last-minute guests. Make it in big batches and freeze some so comfort is always close at hand.

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December 13: One for You, One for Me...

Chickpeas with Eggs and Mustard Greens
© Nicole Franzen

When you’re buying books for the cooks on your list, be sure to pick one up for yourself too (Check out all of our favorite book gifts. That includes F&W’s own Mad Genius Tips with recipes like chickpeas with eggs and mustard greens. Perfect for dinner tonight!

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December 14: Turn Tree Trimming Into a Party

Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies
© Kristin Perers

From brownies topped with crushed candy canes to sugar-and-spice nuts, here are seven festive snacks to enjoy while decorating the Christmas tree.

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December 15: Cook in Season

Tangerine Curd Tart
© Con Poulos

Citrus is at its peak right now. Celebrate with this incredible tangerine curd tart.

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December 16: Make A List

Make a list of holiday gifts
© Le Creuset

We’ve been exceptionally good this year, so we’re not being bashful about our annual ask. Here, four of the things topping our wish list.

NONSTICK PAN: All-Clad’s d3 Armor is great for searing, and the textured surface keeps food from sticking. $110; williams-sonoma.com.

DUTCH OVEN: Le Creuset’s new matte finish in Cashmere marries Scandinavian simplicity with French tradition. From $130; lecreuset.com.

JUICER: The easy-to-use, easy-to-clean Kuvings Whole Slow model gets every last bit of juice from produce. $400; kuvings.com.

OUTDOOR PIZZA OVEN: We’re ready for pizzaiola boot camp. This oven is a favorite of Mario Batali. $2,150; chicagobrickoven.com.

Check out more of our favorite gifts to give and get.

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December 17: Get Your Sugar Fix

Chocolate Mousse

Chef Ludo Lefebvre has us covered with his sweet recipe and a sweet step-by-step video for making chocolate mousse. It sounds even better when he says it. Trust us.

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December 18: Don’t Buy, DIY

Sesame-Matcha Bark
© Christina Holmes

Up your chocolate game with a twist on a holiday classic or this supereasy ice cream topping with unlimited variations.

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December 19: Which Way to the Beach?

Caribbean hotels
© Floto + Warner

These new Caribbean hotels are just the thing to get you through the winter. Whip up some rum punch and start planning!

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December 20: Make it Fast

Fast dinner ideas

With last minute shopping and lots of wrapping to do, who has time for an elaborate dinner? Take a quick time out with one of these fast favorites:

- Angel hair with crab and country ham.

- Caramelized black pepper chicken.

- Italian sausage burgers with garlicky spinach.

- Chipotle shrimp tostadas.

- Chicken and rice salad with pesto yogurt dressing.

- Stir fried shrimp with bacon, mint and chiles.

- Soba noodles with miso roasted tomatoes.

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December 21: Conquer Late Night Cravings

Kimchi-and-Kale Fried Rice
Abby Hocking

This quick stir-fry from chef Rachel Yang of Revelry in Oregon is perfect for leftover takeout rice.

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December 22: Quench Your Thirst

12 Cocktails for Dads Who Don’t Like Whiskey

It’s Thirsty Thursday so why not get a jump on your 2017 cocktail resolution to break out of your drink rut? It’s time to upgrade that Gin & Tonic to a French 75 or graduate from a Negroni to a Boulevardier.

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December 23: Go for a Homemade Host Gift

Jacques Pepin holiday

Take a cue from legendary chef Jacques Pepin with his favorite pound cake or apple galette. Pair it with a market tote or kitchen towel designed with his colorful artwork.

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December 24: Celebrate with the Feast of the Seven Fishes

Raw Oysters with Cava Mignonette
© John Kernick

Matthew Jennings, chef at Boston’s Townsman, gives this classic celebration a modern makeover. Get his menu here:

- Roasted shrimp and fennel skewers.

- Pink peppercorn and fennel gravlax.

- Smoky mussel stew.

- Oysters with cava mignonette.

- Sea scallop lollipops.

- Anchovy toasts with parsnip butter.

- Crab dip with brown butter crumbs.

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December 25: Go Big or Go Home

Standing Beef Rib Roast with Pimentón
© Christina Holmes

Make a showstopping rib roast for the big meal, then turn the leftovers into a Thai salad–inspired sandwich for Boxing Day.

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December 26: Veg Out

Vegetable Rainbow Salad

Take a break from heavy holiday eating with these satisfying vegetable-driven dishes:

- Seared tofu tabbouleh

- Lemony quinoa salad with shaved vegetables

- Baked eggs with mushroom and spinach

- Vegetable rainbow salad

- Italian bibimbap

- Avocado toast with brussel sprouts, pecorino and sunflower seeds

- Toasted farrow with greens and tahini

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December 27: Thanks a Latke

Latkes holiday

F&W’s Gail Simmons always makes her mom’s latkes and her dad’s applesauce for Hanukkah. And now you can too. Mazel tov!

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December 28: Back to the Roots

Ombré Potato and Root Vegetable Gratin
© Con Poulos

These beautiful, ombre root vegetable gratins are like mini works of art. They’re the perfect way to draw dinner raves. Layer sweet potato, squash and rutabaga or beets, potatoes and turnips.

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December 29: Feed Your Skin

feed your skin
© David Murray and Jules Selmes/Getty Images

Forget the pharmacy, head to your kitchen to mix up DIY exfoliators and moisturizers like:

Apple Tart: 1 medium-size cored apple, 1 tablespoon of yogurt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Instructions: Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Massage into skin, and rinse with cool water.

Purpose: Brightens, cools, refreshes and hydrates skin.

Bright New Day: 1/2 cup of raw sugar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of honey.

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in bowl. Gently apply to skin in a circular motion to exfoliate. Be careful when applying to the skin around your eyes.

Purpose: Reduces appearance of scars, plus smoothes and brightens skin.

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December 30: Cozy Up with a Chef

chef books holiday

Reserve your energy for the big night by laying low with a good read from a great chef. It’s Friday—your couch is calling.

32 YOLKS Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert tells a vivid story of his childhood and the trying days of his early career before finding success in the kitchens of New York. $28.

OUT OF LINE Barbara Lynch’s memoir traces her path from troublemaker to gifted chef and owner at some of Boston’s best restaurants, including No. 9 Park. Available now for preorder. $26.

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December 31: Prep Like a Pro

Sesame Bagel Breakfast Casserole
© Christina Holmes

Let this cheesy strata sit overnight in the fridge while you ring in the New Year. You’ll thank us in the morning.

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