Spice Up the Holidays

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Several years ago, my role as GRIT food editor took me to Baltimore. I was covering the National Chicken Cooking Contest, and that’s another story.

Part of the agenda for media representatives, though, was a trip to the headquarters of McCormick & Co. We heard staff members talk about spices, how they’re gathered, how the company decides which spices to purchase in raw form and sell to us consumers, and about the company in general. It was an informative trip, and one I enjoyed immensely. It didn’t hurt that we each received a great gift bag with bottles of spices, some of which still reside in my cupboard.

I was reminded of the trip today when a press release from McCormick hit my e-mail inbox – an intriguing press release, in my opinion.

McCormick offers an annual forecast to identify emerging flavors, taking a closer look at traditional favorites around the holidays and coming up with new takes on those dishes. According to the press release: “With an extensive network of researchers, trend experts, chefs, home economists, food technologists, and sensory analysts, McCormick & Company, Inc. keeps its finger on the pulse of flavor.”

Founded in 1889 in Baltimore (headquarters are now in Sparks, Maryland, a northern suburb), the company definitely knows its spices. I would guess you can find a McCormick representative or grower in just about every corner of the world.

So, this year, the Flavor Forecast: Holiday Edition lists five pairings for the season. Keep an open mind – these just may be what you’re looking for to spice up (pun intended) that holiday feast you’re already planning.

Again, from the release:

“Here are the top flavor pairings according to the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2009: Holiday Edition.

Ginger & Molasses – The duo behind timeless gingerbread is cleverly reinvented from a childhood classic into contemporary goodies for all ages.

Warm Spices & Pumpkin – The aromatic blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice unites with creamy pumpkin to inspire remakes of its namesake pie.

Peppermint & Chocolate – This refreshing yet sweet combination comes together in everything from a festive martini to a chocolate tart.

Vanilla & Red Food Color – The lush, alluring flavor of vanilla and the joyous hue of red transform the show-stopping qualities of red velvet cake into updated indulgences.

Nutmeg & Rum – The unforgettable essence of eggnog comes out of the punch bowl as inspired treats from breakfast to the dessert table.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m heading for the McCormick website to find a few recipes with these combinations. Oh, wait – they included a few recipes with the press release. Hurray!

Enjoy! I know I will!


Prep Time: 30 minutes

Refrigerate: 4 hours

Cook Time: 8 to 10 minutes per batch

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons McCormick® Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened, divided
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow cream
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Lemon Extract
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
1. Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Beat 3/4 cup of the butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
3. Bake in preheated 350°F oven 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies just begin to brown. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.
4. Mix marshmallow cream, remaining 1/4 cup butter, cream cheese and extract in medium bowl until well blended. Place about 1 tablespoon filling on the flat side of 1 cookie. Top with a second cookie, pressing gently to spread the filling. Repeat with remaining cookies. Roll edge of cookies in crushed candy. Store whoopie pies between layers of wax paper in airtight container in refrigerator up to 5 days.
Yields 2 1/2 dozen.


Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon McCormick® Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup canned pumpkin
7 ounces (1/2 of 14-ounce package) caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons milk
1. Mix flour, oats, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add butter; stir until mixture is well blended and forms coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 (about 2 1/4 cups) for the topping. Add pumpkin to remaining mixture in bowl; stir until well blended. Press evenly into greased foil-lined 13×9-inch baking pan. Set aside.
2. Microwave caramels and milk in medium microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after every minute. Let stand 1 minute. Pour over pumpkin mixture in pan, spreading to within 1/2-inch of edges. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
3. Bake in preheated 350°F oven 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 24 bars.
Yields 2 dozen.


Prep Time: 20 minutes

2 packages (15 shells each) frozen mini phyllo shells
1/3 cup plus 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet baking chocolate, cut into chunks
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Peppermint Extract
1. Prepare phyllo shells as directed on package for crisp unfilled tarts. Cool completely.
2. Microwave 1/3 cup of the cream and chocolate in microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool 5 minutes or until chocolate ganache starts to thicken. Spoon a heaping teaspoon ganache into each tart shell. Cool completely.
3. Beat cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat remaining 3/4 cup cream, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and extract in medium bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add 1/2 of the whipped cream to cream cheese mixture; stir until well blended. Gently stir in remaining whipped cream.
4. Spoon about 1 tablespoon Peppermint Crème into each tart. Garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yields 30 tarts.
Test Kitchen Tip: Mini phyllo shells are available in the frozen section of most supermarkets.
Flavor Variations: Crème filling may also be prepared with 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Raspberry Extract or Pure Orange Extract.


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Refrigerate: 3 hours

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
2 eggs
2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
1 tablespoon McCormick® Red Food Color
1 prepared chocolate crumb crust (6 ounces)
1. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating on low speed, just until blended.
2. Measure 1 cup batter into medium bowl. Stir in melted chocolate and food color. Pour into crust. Top with remaining (plain) cheesecake batter.
3. Bake in preheated 350°F oven 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely on wire rack.
4. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
Yields 8 servings.
Test Kitchen Tip: Drizzle cheesecake with chocolate or hot fudge dessert topping just before serving.


Prep Time: 25 minutes

Refrigerate: 5 hours

1 pound white baking chocolate, divided
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Imitation Rum Extract
McCormick® Ground Nutmeg (for sprinkling)
1. Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate as directed on package. Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, nutmeg and extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Add melted chocolate; beat until well mixed. Cover. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.
2. Shape into 24 (about 3/4-inch) balls. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Refrigerate until ready to dip.
3. Coat only 12 truffles at a time. Melt 4 ounces of the remaining chocolate in small microwavable bowl on MEDIUM, 1 1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Using a fork, dip 1 truffle at a time into the chocolate. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Sprinkle truffles with nutmeg. Repeat with remaining 4 ounces chocolate and remaining truffles.
4. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chocolate is set. Store truffles in refrigerator up to 1 week.
Yields 2 dozen.
Test Kitchen Tip: When dipping the truffles, do so in 2 batches (as directed above in Step 3) as the coldness of the truffles may cause the melted chocolate to harden.