5 Recipes Using Holiday Flavors in Unexpectedly Delightful Ways

The Holiday Season is similar to the Pumpkin Spice Latte Season; by the end of it, you never want to see another gingerbread cookie or glass of eggnog again. This year, embrace the ‘nog, the peppermint, and the gingerbread spices. Keep it fresh and exciting by finding new places for those once-loved flavors that used to give you a belly tingle of excitement. Keep the fire going with these 5 unusual places for holiday flavors.

cream Cauliflower Soup with Cheese

Source: iStock

1. Cauliflower Soup with Gingerbread Spices

Using gingerbread spices in this cauliflower soup warms an under-loved vegetable to a new comfort-food standard. Coming from Laura Russell’s cookbook, Brassicas (which, if you are also a nerd and refer to vegetables by their genus and likes delicious food, you can buy here), this recipe is a big, spiced, apple-sweetened bowl of cozy to carry you through when you just can’t eat another gingerbread man. The cauliflower is not only a nutritional powerhouse, but it also cooks to a consistency so creamy that you’ll think you upended a carton of half-and-half into your soup pot. Secret: No cream.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cored and coarsely chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 2 sweet apples such as gala or braeburn, peeled and diced, peels reserved for garnish
  • 1¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided into ½ and ¼
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions: In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Do not let the onion brown. Add the cauliflower, apples, salt, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until the apples and cauliflower are tender. Do not boil outright, as this makes brassicas like cauliflower smelly and bitter (think boiled Brussels sprouts).

While the soup is cooking, prepare the garnish. Cut the apple peels into fine shreds and put them in a bowl. Add the honey and ¼ teaspoon of ginger and toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside or refrigerate until needed.

Remove the soup from the heat and let cool slightly. Fish out the whole cloves (you do not want to purée those bad boys) and transfer soup — in batches if necessary — to a blender and puree until smooth. Ladle soup into bowls and top with garnish.

Fried Chicken on a waffle

Source: iStock

2. Bourbon Brined Chicken and Eggnog Waffles

Gingerbread waffles, eggnog waffles, cranberry waffles, peppermint chocolate waffles; we get it. Waffles. Sweet and holiday-themed waffles.

This is not that.

Sweet and salty and crispy with eggnog undertones, this dish is a mash-up of a recipe for eggnog waffles from Cookie Monster Cooking, minus the cinnamon whipped cream, and the Food Network’s Bourbon Brined Fried Chicken from Southern at Heart. It’s based on a similar dish at Melba’s in Harlem, NYC, famous for American nouveau and southern soul style food. We think it’s a pretty good destination for a tired old glass of eggnog. It’s a long but easy recipe.



  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups eggnog
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon, optional


  • ⅔ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Eight 10- to 12-ounce skin-on bone-in chicken breasts
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¾ cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup unrefined coconut oil


For the Chicken

To make the brine, in a large bowl, combine the bourbon, brown sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns and ¼ cup salt. Stir to combine. Pour in 4 cups warm water and stir until the brown sugar dissolves. Put chicken in a 1-gallon resealable freezer bag and pour in the brine. The chicken should be completely submerged. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Pour off the brine and place the chicken on a cooling rack. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper before dredging. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the breading: You will need three medium bowls for the breading. In one bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with ½ teaspoon baking powder. In a second bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and mustard. In a third bowl, combine the remaining 1½ cups flour and ¾ teaspoon baking powder, along with the cornmeal, garlic powder, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper.

Dip each chicken breast in the flour (dusting off any excess), then in the buttermilk mixture, and finally in the cornmeal mixture. Dust off any excess before laying each chicken breast on a cooling rack. Allow the chicken to sit out uncovered for 30 minutes. This will make for a crunchier crust.

Set a cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a 14-inch cast-iron skillet, combine the canola and coconut oils and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 345 degrees Farenheit on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, place the chicken in the skillet bone-side up. The oil should only come halfway up the side of the chicken. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, 5 to 7 minutes more. If needed, cook on the thicker side of the chicken breast for another minute to crisp the crust. Transfer to the rack as done.

Wipe up any oil drips from the baking sheet so they don’t smoke up your kitchen. Transfer the chicken on the rack and baking sheet to the oven and bake until cooked through and the center registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and carry over cooking another 5 degrees Farenheit before serving, about 5 minutes. During this time, make your waffles.

For the Waffles

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, eggnog, butter and bourbon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter will still be lumpy.

Preheat a waffle maker. Pour the recommended amount of batter into the waffle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook until golden brown. Top the waffles with the chicken.

Vanilla Ice cream

Source: iStock

3. Mountain Pine Ice Cream

Don’t limit your pine to your Christmas tree and candles! This homemade ice cream from Family Fresh Cooking uses pine syrup for flavor, which you can either buy here from Dram or learn how to make, here from the Food Network, straight from your Christmas tree. Additional pine syrup can be used for Christmas cocktails. Pine is actually very high in vitamin C, in case you didn’t know! If you’re skeptical or generally interested, read more here.


  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¾ cup minus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup pine syrup


Make sure your ice cream maker is chilled and ready to use. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of a saucepan. Combine all ingredients in the saucepan over medium heat, stir to combine. Bring mixture barely to a simmer; your thermometer should read 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and transfer ice cream mixture to a bowl. Chill in the fridge overnight or until thoroughly cold. Churn cold ice cream mixture according to your machine directions. Freeze until ready to use. Top with honey and sprinkles if desired.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

4. Peppermint Margaritas

Mint isn’t just for mojitos. In this margarita recipe from the Sauza tequila website, you muddle holiday-appropriate peppermint for a festive take on a classic drink. Citrus comes into season in the winter, ripening with the colder weather, so it’s not totally off-base as a winter cocktail.


  • 1 bunch of fresh peppermint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 6 parts tequila
  • 2 cups club soda
  • ice
  • salt to rim
  • extra mint leaves to garnish

Directions: In a small pitcher, muddle together the mint leaves, sugar and lime juice until they start to melt together. Add tequila. Fill 4 glasses with ice and divide cocktail mixture equally. Top each glass with club soda and garnish with an extra sprig of mint.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

5. Grilled Shrimp with Fresh Cranberry Salsa

Shrimp and cocktail sauce is a classic holiday party appetizer. Make it more festive and a bit fresher by substituting the typical tomato-based sauce for this fresh cranberry salsa from Coastal Living.



  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

Cranberry Salsa

  • 1½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt



Combine first 9 ingredients in a zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal, and turn to coat shrimp. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat grill to 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit  (medium-high) heat. Remove shrimp from marinade, discarding marinade. Grill shrimp, turning once, 4 to 6 minutes or just until they turn pink. Sprinkle with salt, if desired.

Cranberry Salsa

Pulse cranberries in a food processor 4 to 5 times or until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in honey and remaining ingredients.

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