Tuesday, December 25, 2012

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Brownies

One of my earliest Christmas memories is being pulled by my mother over the snow and ice on my small red sled.  My grandmother lived only a few streets away and it was too snowy to drive the car.  For many years, my grandmother always hosted the family Christmas party.  She had no large tree, only a small, plug-in golden tree, which I found quite sad.  But I loved the food.  My grandmother couldn't cook, but unlike some non-cooks who feel obliged to throw together some ghastly casserole or recipe they found on the back of a package, my grandmother would lay out a smorgasbord of cheeses and salamis, antipasto, dried fruits and nuts, chips and dips.  With hunks of Provolone cheese and pepperoni, dates, and potato chips, I was delighted, since the sight of most real food left me kicking the table and whining for dessert. Of course, there was candy and cookies as well, including the hard Russell Stover ribbon candy my grandmother inexplicably loved.  Everyone would sit and eat in a nice, casual fashion, relaxing and playing with the Christmas presents the kids brought with them.

The only pesky problem was my aunt, who would chase me around with a glass of water and constantly dilute the root beer in my Christmas cup because she was worried I was getting too fat.  I was amazed how something that tasted so good straight up could taste so wretched by the addition of a slug of water. Of course, the same aunt, when I grew up and became thin, complained I was too skinny.

Regardless of what you think is right to eat for Christmas, I hope you enjoyed it. I have no food traditions I am carrying on, recipe-wise, thanks to my grandmother's legacy.  I hated eggnog as a kid (shudder) but loved the taste of the bright green and red fruits on canned fruitcake.  I sucked on peppermint candy canes and adored the little Santa chocolates that were tucked in the shoes we left out one year, when one of my teachers taught us about St. Lucia's Day.  I've eaten out and eaten in on Christmas, usually with my mother.  I've had everything from fruit salad to most of a box of nonpareils (not the best idea). I made cookies from mixes and snarfed red and green M&Ms.

But I don't feel bad about the lack of consistency in my Christmas 'food life.' Christmas, although for so many of us is 'the big holiday' is pliable enough, dinner-wise, to fit so many traditions, and even the standard Christmas menu has changed so much over the years.

I remember reading one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, "The Blue Carbuncle," which revolves around the purchase of a Christmas goose.  Everyone ate geese back in the 19th century but as a kid not even I was crazy enough to ask to eat a goose, and the people who cook them today at home are regarded as an equal mix of insanely ambitious and crazy.  Ditto with mince pie, although I did have that once and rather liked it...

Roast beef, turkey, fruit cake, pumpkin pie, cookies, chocolate, eggnog, mulled wine, all are fair game at the Christmas table...so why not white chocolate?  These base of these festive non-chocolate brownies (I guess, if you wanted to be non-PC and get all George Jefferson about them, you could call them 'whities') accentuate the green of the pistachio and the red of the cranberry.  You could use candied fruit as well, but I'm trying to leave the ghost of my (overly) sweet tooth to Christmas Past.

White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Brownies

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden

--yields 12-16 brownies--


6 ounces white baking chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup shelled, salted pistachios (plus more for sprinkling on top)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (plus more for sprinkling on top)

2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (for 'frosting')

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 8X8 pan with nonstick or greased foil.
2. Melt the 6 ounces of white chocolate and butter in a bain marie over low heat. Cool.  Whisk in eggs, sugar, and vanilla until well combined.  Fold in flour, add nuts and cranberries.
3. Pour in pan. Sprinkle a few more nuts and cranberries on top.  Bake for 25 minutes.
4. Sprinkle 2 ounces of white chocolate on brownies after removing from the oven.
5. Return to oven for one minute to soften white chocolate if necessary.  Spread white chocolate with a knife.  Cut into squares when completely cool.


  1. George Jefferson would probably call them honkys. (Non-christmasy thought: I wonder if they buried Sherman Hemsley yet.)

    When my mom was in charge of the Christmas dinner, the main dish would vary among turkey, roast beast, or ham, but the constant was that she would make a ton of sushi. She hasn't made it in years, though; it's a little too labor-intensive for her now and also it requires a Christmas Eve trip to the fish market at the Asian grocery, which is second in aggravation and shoving only to New Year's Eve at that market.

  2. My favorite reference to 'whities' is the Garrett Morris song from Saturday Night Live:


    Sushi with the main meal sounds fantastic!

    Although I agree that does sound quite decadent to double-fist salmon with roast beef...

    Shopping around Christmas amazes me in general. I'm baffled that so many people live in my area whom I never see except during the month before Christmas.